Disavowals (Aveux non Avenus) by Claude Cahun

Disavowals

The translation of the title (original Aveux non Avenus) was the cause of much controversy at the Tate. Some of the editorial board favoured ‘Cancelled Confessions’. The title is deliberately ambiguous and indecipherable…this is Cahun’s trademark.

This translation – of a work that was always considered untranslateable – took me the best part of three years.

It is available from Tate Publishing and on Amazon

Here are some extracts from my translation of the text:

ORIGINAL PREFACE TO AVEUX NON AVENUS by Pierre Mac Orlan1
Introducing these pages is a difficult task. Where the aim of literature is to set itself free it
virtually eludes all criticism, particularly that of professional critics.
Mademoiselle Claude Cahun, the niece of the author of ‘Vies Imaginaires’[Marcel
Schwob] has inherited a state of torment so richly productive that one should not wish her rid
of it.
This book is virtually entirely dedicated to the word adventure. Perhaps one should
consider exactly how the author would define this word.
I think that the adventure here is, by its very nature, interior, but it is presented to us in
a series of cinematic glimpses which insist on the cerebral, rather than plastic, nature of the
enterprise.
This almost cruel poem is infused with a very peculiar light, emanating from
emotional ingredients of perfectly human origin.
The undeniably fantastic beauty of these images furthermore has at its heart a series of
feelings perfectly common to all, such as love when it hasn’t quite shaken off melancholy.
It is love that gives the street its deep melancholy; the extraordinary mutability of love
imbues the art of photography with infinite mystery.
The great emotional valets of our age are the camera and the gramophone.
Both have appropriated for themselves a little of the celestial fire so many men have
sought with an often infantile sensuality.
The emotional life that Claude Cahun brings into her domain – the adventure – can be
contained in a dozen records known only to herself.
The gramophone is a instrument of poetic control. A poetic mirror. It cannot be put
into just any hands.
I sometimes see aspects of Isabelle Eberhart in Claude Cahun; I know that this impression is
not totally correct but this literary resemblance is a cerebral creation, born of the association
of the gramophone and the camera.
If the talking machine did not recreate the world more or less daily, it would have no
greater function than to replace an ensemble of instruments. Its poetic import would be no
greater than that of a bandstand between five and seven.
We know that this is not the case.
The sum total of poem-essays and essay-poems contained in this publication – which is not a
slim volume – is the equivalent of the more or less regulation 300 pages of an adventure novel
conceived to conform to public taste. Ideas trace elegant parabolas to end in a tragic
unfolding, exploding without a sound.
I believe that each idea this author launches forms a trajectory parallel to that of her
own life. To comment too precisely on this book would be almost indiscreet.
The characters that evolve in this funeral procession are not exactly phantoms. More exactly,
these are apparitions whose weight, nonetheless, can be calculated, who cannot evade the
touch of a hand.
Claude Cahun is a wandering writer. She progresses irresistibly through the night, a
night full of lights to which she gives the names of men, the names of plants, the names of
shell fish.
This night broods over a strange congress of sometimes tender, sometimes furious
forms and ideas. A philosophical orchestra plays discreetly.
At dawn, all of this disappears. And on the unadorned shoreline, a shoreline more
naked than an operating table, all that will remain is a female corpse polished like a marble
statue and near it, as if escaped from a breast for which it has no further use, a firm and
mobile heart, obviously living, with all its complicated machinery clear to see.
Pierre Mac Orlan
[Note to editor: In all the following text words in italics signify original language in the text
(most usually English, German and Latin).]
3
CANCELLED CONFESSIONS
The invisible adventure.
The lens tracks the eyes, the mouth, the wrinkles skin deep … the expression on the
face is fierce, sometimes tragic. And then calm – a knowing calm, worked on, flashy. A
professional smile – and voilà!
The hand-held mirror reappears, and the rouge and eye shadow. A beat. Full stop.
New paragraph.
I’ll start again.
To those who know nothing of the steps, obstacles and enormous chasms I’ve leapt
over – and I’ve revealed none of it – this all must seem the most ludicrous merry-go-round.
Should I then burden myself with all the paraphernalia of facts, stones, cords
delicately cut, precipices… it doesn’t interest me at all. Guess, recover. Vertigo is implied,
ascension or the fall.
To please them, would you have to follow the unknown, step by step, illuminating it
up to the ankle? Heels worn down, mud, feet bleeding – these humble and truthful testaments
– they would surely touch somebody’s heart. Whereas…
No. I’ll trace the wake of vessels in the air, the pathway over the waters, the pupils’
mirage.
No point in making myself comfortable. The abstraction, the dream, are as limited for
me as the concrete and the real. What to do? Show a part of it only, in a narrow mirror, as if it
were the whole? Mix up a halo with spatters? Refusing to bump into walls, bump into
windows instead? In the black of night.
Until I see everything clearly, I want to hunt myself down, struggle with myself. Who,
feeling armed against her own self, be that with the vainest of words, would not do her very
best if only to hit the void bang in the middle.2
It’s false. It’s very little. But it trains the eye.
*
Only with the very tip would I wish to sew, sting, kill. The rest of the body, what comes after,
what a waste of time! Only ever travel in the prow of myself.
4
I
R.C.S
At just seven years old, without realizing it,
I was already looking for sentimental adventure,
driven – as I am now – by impotence,
and with all the strategic impudence
that characterises me still.
Time change
He: So what!
Me: So what!
The other: What a life…
Indiscreet and brutal, I enjoy looking at what’s underneath the crossed out bits of my
soul. Ill-advised intentions have been revised there, become dormant; others have
materialized in their place.
I love whisky: it’s bad – you don’t feel as though you’re committing a sin; and it’s
strong – it makes you drunk. This evening I got myself about a litre of the stuff. I got into
bed; the lights are low and my little debauchery within easy reach. I’m drinking and smoking
and writing to kill all my feelings. The slovenliness of my race3.
I’m thinking about Bob4 of course, Bob at the bar. My cheeks produce dimples –
5
they’re fake yet a competent imitation. – Bob…this is a truly intellectual love. Who’d believe
it? – Who? Who would I want to fool into believing it? You know all about it: I explain
everything to you, exaggerate. Your absence is an illusion. Fifteen years of intimacy aren’t
shaken off with a bit of tobacco, some alcohol and a few words. In vain do I refuse to give
you a name, my familiar witness. The mind will never get out of the rut it’s in, memory will
never burst its hinges5, its grave, nor will my heart come out of its shell.
I can only read about others between your lines… – Icarus? O memory still-born. –
Saccard? I envied him, admired his energy to such an extent that I forgot he does not actually
use it for anything superhuman. I would have given my soul away easily, too easily (clearly it
doesn’t weigh much), and thrown my body in for good measure – a free gift. However
chastely, however humbly this was done they wanted nothing to do with either. My only
excuse – your forgiveness – lies in this unexpected outcome (O desires without repentance!
Will you ever end, O scornful fatalism of the sage despite himself?): a death, a will, a sincere
life, all spurned…O dried up sensualities, sensualities of the summer! – Am I not twenty six
years old? – No! Already! – in this Indian summer? A heat unique in the annals of astronomy.
– Ah! What am I saying? What was I saying? Memories in madness. (O unrepentant regrets
– and how you whine! Why don’t you shut up? In the absence of other lips, gnaw your own
to pulp…) Eyes over there – depths – dream-filled looks, never fixed; here, mouths – abysses –
and so well adapted: wardens in a lunatic asylum. All falling strictly forbidden.
Ledunois, Pyrrhus6, sometimes even Arcadius? Sensual complicity only…Complicity?
She’s a funny one, O impossible me! Am not I among all people – no: like all people, to put
it correctly! – alone, eternally alone. Let’s brag about it, let’s hurry: we have no other death
assurance.
Diomedes7?…He passes. He’s already in night right up to his neck, I’m coming too
late. I can feel that he’s lost. He’s dug his own grave. Could I fill it in? Let’s leave
burrowing to timid rabbits… – And Bob again, can he see? Anguish. Who’s calling me? My
face hardens, visibly hardens. Masks my weakness. Pride: I’m like him. Enough: I’m
giving him up. How easy it is from afar. I’ll say it again and again until my heart capitulates
to the starvation of boredom’s lengthy siege. I was Prince for a while and cannot think about
it without pretensions of nobility. Nobility! And Bob again. How obvious his royalty was
to me! That love, so intellectual! To the point of debauchery, to the point of absurdity. Only
the others saved me from harm. I’d have gaily thrown my soft, warm body into the merciless
fire for them, for some among them, for him in any case. But entering hell held out no hope
for me..
O you, you whom I love – you who tolerate my love when all is said and done – one
and only God, I would never even have dared say I miss you…and this infernal red ring next
to my flickering lamp, – O whisky! – gliding through the green sky bottle, descending,
faltering…will I finish it?
Intellectual passions. Yes, I assure you. Same strength. Weight – let’s be modest –
average. Yes it’s a contest – You, (woe to the conquered!)8 emperor-gladiator supreme, Saint
John the Baptist9 finger pointing up – pointing down for all things are relative and I am
looking down – be cruel, cruel. I feel as if I’m dying, (feebly) dying – but I know very well
that it’s an illusion. In fact it’s a habit I adopt to endure and make others endure the vital
force of a vicious beast. Let’s be cruel. It’s not dangerous…
He’ll be defeated. I want my revenge. He’ll be.. I want him…O Fortune, O sorrow!
What is to be done? He won’t have me. And what about me? Do I really want him? Yes?
No? – I don’t know for sure…
6
I’ve got everything ready. Nothing is missing. Hurry up you lower classes10! No I’ll
show you the door… – I’ve had enough: I want to die. Isn’t this the very best recovery? – I
want to live. Eh, I’ve already said it. I’m losing my memory. Or am I already drunk? No,
sorrow is prowling and howling inside me like a wild beast in a cage. The cage is not very
strong – let the curious beware. It’s going, I’m going to…you…
It’s nothing. Shut up, shut up! Let’s be silent; let’s be… – let’s not be. Or simply,
gently passive beneath his impassive spade like a naked furrow11, dug, turned over, flesh
naked, where wild weeds12…(Vegetable life. Love in slow motion…) wild, wave only as he
permits. But you crazy woman! He doesn’t permit even that… – Damn ! Down with all this
submission. Let’s be as plentiful as the earth – bountiful and superficially cultivated, of
course.
I stood up to you. Why? Resisting what? Nothing, O submission. I am positively
outraged! I’m losing my memory, and this vague personality crumbles having been tricked
into building itself up too much. I’ll dissociate myself from it completely if someone gives
me another..but enough of this. Let’s dissolve.
I love you. That should be enough for the whole solar system. I love thee. O this
shameful courtesy, little prostituted soul. Does it imagine that the verb is even more powerful
attended by this ‘thee’? My soul? The bitch! It’s less pure than my body…(you will have
already come to that conclusion. Forgive me: My spirit is rather slow…but the flesh is
willing!), and more feminine – what can I do? Ah! Wear it out.
Individualism? Narcissism? Certainly. My best characteristic, the one and only
intentional fidelity I am capable of. You don’t care? I’m lying anyway: I scatter myself too
widely for that.
I despair. I love him with physical abandon – this fantasy knows no respite – with all
my soul13…he doesn’t care. It’s true. I totally understand it! Will he want my passion if I
leave it to him in my will? Passion…and mine will improve with age, admirable wine that
will lose its kick. – Ageless water might be preferred. He won’t want it. And he’ll be right.
Would I want it if the law allowed you to bequeath things to yourself, dying so that you
would belong to yourself?
Is it all by chance?… No. I only believe in what I want. I can believe in the
impossible, for example: That God, You and I are one and the same place, that hell, paradise
and my sheets merge together, that the instant, the eternal, my syllables long and short are (for
those who would know how to pronounce it) one and the same word.
*
7
Aesthetic love.
I loved him. He didn’t resist. Our lives should have become more simple.
But the severe god, that furious, childish artist, snapped his arrow14 of potential
perfection and separated us:
It was too easy a harmony!
*
Fast and good.
Short but sweet.
Our bodies met from knees to shoulders. His arm, all trembling, explored my heart,
and I was ashamed of the irregular breathing that betrayed my desire…
Compulsion, a stranger to love, kept us thus, glued against one another in the midst of
indifference. Yet we gave ourselves totally, hastily and with great ardour, in an intonation, a
look, the lightest touch concentrating stiffening tissue. Together we greedily delighted in the
abandon of our connexion – maintained as best we could through the bumps of the machine.
(Wasn’t it a motor race against the clock: a twenty minute pretext for all this? How did I
have time to notice any of this? – But I didn’t of course: I will be told afterwards!) Rigid
abandon, not in the least inconsistent, conscious, wished for…..
Would our loving wills15 destroy each other in the end, with an equal magnetism
exerting too much strain? When the appropriate moment came we separated without so much
as touching hands.
And the family finds this natural! – Natural, certainly; animal for sure; but
appropriate, humane? For me it was too much! – or too little. Ah!..to relive each sensation in
detail, for the totality escaped me. It was so much! And so little in truth. What was I saying
about natural? If we were two dogs, two unsociable cats, we’d at least have possessed each
other before sacrificing ourselves to the routine of our ferocious assertions of individuality.
With pleasure I imagine my body exhausted, satisfied, with no expectation that my soul
would return and recoil.
I’m stopping here. I didn’t know how to go on. My unfulfilled desire, in its most
abstract form, is now nothing more than a mechanical expression of my thought, a litany like
the songs of idiots. I despise it.
Calm me, little brother.
*
Jersey, 20 September 1920
(Letter)
8
…Yesterday (an enduring yesterday – if it isn’t today’s it’s very like it), I was up and
about, by chance and by habit, on the road to nowhere, meditating without hope, without any
faith in myself, in you and above all in him and with no charitable feeling towards anything.
Despising all my plans, despising the cowardice that prevents me from putting them
into action even more. (I came for this pointless conquest and will not leave without having
accomplished it..or without having smashed every chance of an attempted embrace. To
rebuild a lasting happiness from the slightest simple touch, to disarm a dream as yet
unrealized with one single disappointed touch. To the point of laughter, O my wounded
mouth..maybe I will draw some tears from you and I will do him harm. There will be some
curious ricochets. I was born to create my own misery, the prolonged boredom and the brief
disdain of you others!) Above all else I despised the way I despise myself…
Little by little a murmur seizes me by the entrails; voices caress my ears, become
distinctive (I won’t turn my head), take up their positions (the rest of my effort deployed in
calculating the distance – distance already diminishing), speak (Till we meet again), catch up
with me and pass me (just). An abrupt halt, military, with salute and clicked heels on the
decisive syllable.
All my bitterness, alas! And all my wild resolution abandon me. On this, of all
evenings, he should not have come: no smile has illuminated his face for five full circles of
the sun (he has the right to spurn my tenderness, only that), and the nocturnal tide bears the
gloomy rain of morning back against us. On this of all evenings, though no longer really
expected, here he is. His eager laughter that I find so refreshing, his breath like a strong wind
dry out my clenched soul. Though my heart feels completely the opposite, my words of
welcome are rough, lashing him as they force their way out of my soft, contracted mouth; my
eyes are shining and burning with the tears they have not shed…
Did I ever once show him any anger, or malice, despite this week of suffering? I
never had any such intention. But sometimes, living within us unnoticed, words which
nothing has invited – a whole hostile crowd – make use of our lips.
Shining under the downpour, his black oilskin with the wide collar, the sleeves over
his fingers, lend him the sublime air of a Prophet (prophet of Himself alone). Before me, his
righteous pride like a royal coat.
Even conceding my defeat would no longer please me, from now on I wish to live in
the midst of bristling incertitude. I want to expose myself, bare-headed, to the sudden
showers of an eternal Springtime.
All that exist for me are this moment and the one that follows it in terms of logic, if
not time. What does chronology matter?
Sweet though, beneath a candle stuck in an old bottle of Bass, the moment when our
two heads (ah! That our hair would meld indistinguishable) leaned together over a
photograph. Portrait of one or the other, our two narcissisms drowning there, it was the
impossible realized in a magic mirror. The exchange, the superimposition, the fusion of
desires. The unity of the image achieved through the close friendship of two bodies – for the
sake of which they send their souls to the devil!
Not their souls, but what serves them as such, not these solemn sisters, but this
everyday consciousness: the intellect, happiness, stability, well-established love, memories,
habits, the future, guessing.
9
Post script: At present I exist in another way.
*
Ah, the inevitable.
O sweet little girl, leave the dried flower of your grace between the leaves of my
books and my favourite acts, may I am become accustomed to your scent whose insipidity
still faintly nauseates me, whose bitter drunkenness – and how I love it! – first suffocates me,
despite myself…
O pug-nosed death,16 your immutable mould fearsomely forces itself onto aquilinenosed
faces17. This is why men of this type fear you more than any other. Be inflexible,
implacable mask; remain rigid whether you wish to or not. Don’t let yourself be insulted by
me, little sweetness. Reclaim your pride, our queen. Not only decorative – you still are – but
you were young and very modest once, and maybe you have remained so.. Young, judging by
your naivety, the blunders you commit on us – you are only learning, poor little thing! – and
your likely immortality.
Life, death, ageless sisters. And yet the younger is you: you couldn’t exist without
your false twin, you are conjoined. You cannot exterminate her without destroying yourself.
But see how your hundred thousand victories an hour are valued: they are worth
nothing more than your insignificant rival.
What does life do to defend herself? In poverty, she is mean; in wealth, vulgar;
mutilated in aestheticism; parasitical in faith; impotent and tortured in anarchy, continually
subjected to interrogation; soiled in purity, prostituted, animal-like; a liar in heroism – or,
from her very conception, constrained in giving you her word.
Renounce your influence, renounce yourself, O death, base death.
*
She.
I cannot.
Have an abrupt end? – Very well. But is death an unassailable rampart on top of a
mountain or a simple parchment partition that the soul passes through like a bullet?
I hate it when sunlight or a loud noise roughly wrenches me from sleep in the
morning.
Would I prefer to be brutally pushed out of life by silence and darkness falling?
To be abruptly awoken by a stranger in the other world?… – Ah! No.
10
*
The anguish of sleep.
Would I prefer silence and darkness falling…
Ah how I envy those who are overcome by an unexpected sleep, the forehead
suddenly struck and the head weighed down as if by a ball of lead! How happy too those
children who are pushed into the unknown never having uttered the oblivious birth-cry of joy
and pain! Ah how I’d love to fall asleep like those good workers who die of old age, gently,
tenderly, prepared for an effortless death by the continuous efforts of an undervalued life …
I lived in joyfulness; I wanted pleasure to be abrupt, a brutal awakening from the
slightest drowsiness of the senses. All deathbeds are mine! I have won the right to struggle
at the evening of each day as at the evening of life.
I remember, it was Carnival.18 I had spent my solitary hours disguising my soul. Its
masks were so perfect that when their paths crossed in the grand square of my consciousness
they didn’t recognize each other. Beguiled by their comic ugliness, I explored the worst
possible instincts; I welcomed young monsters into myself and nurtured them. But the makeup
I had used seemed indelible. I rubbed so hard to remove it that I took off all the skin. And
my soul, like a flayed face, naked, no longer had a human form.
Like a dog, tethered by too short a rope, fretting, longing to be free in the sunshine,
who surreptitiously gnaws at the hemp and flees into the countryside; like his heavy kennel,
damp with soiled straw, retaining the odour, the imprint of the animal, his leftover food
already rotting, which can do nothing but wait, lost, too much impregnated with his presence
for any other use to be tolerable – ready to be thrown on the fire; like my body, like my soul.
Thus my insane soul, lost – oh with no going back! – such easy prey.
Thus my body, not the pure body of a water goddess never besmirched by soul, but
violated by the beast, his mark, his scent, whatever he’s chanced to eat, the traces of his meals
– interpretations I have discarded, o memories already decomposing.
I can feel my thighs become thinner in the sweat of fever as if I could see it
happening, sometimes a scalding shower, sometimes icy, always unexpected. My emptied
knees, the bones dissolved, clothed in transparent parchment, blow up like floating pigs’
bladders. My heart slows, tolls a mournful death knell, then beats noisily like an alarm. It
starts to move around, wanders about in my stomach, bursts into it with agonising cramps.
With each contraction a consciousness falls pulverised. Little by little I become lighter. Brief
respite! My heart inflates outrageously, filling up with hydrogen. A massive red and blue
balloon, it floats upwards at the end of a string.
At the other end is an imprisoned wasp which knocks at the walls of my breast with
venomous blows. What if I helped it get out? And my nails would unhesitatingly tear a route
to daylight for the fugitive from this heart were it not so despairingly dark outside.
O endless nocturne played in the circles of the musical night, infernal serpent which
cut off its own head while swallowing its tail, bracelet with seven sealed chains19…
The red and blue balloon is extremely strong: it lifts me from my bed, mesmerized. I
11
feel the loss of momentum in this levitation I have brought about, and the spectator’s panic on
realizing the danger. A sort of vague ecstasy sways me; and – remembering the abyss of
sleep, underground vertigo interrupting intermittent contractions, as crude as a fall, – I
vaguely repeat:
I like ascending even more than descending. All will be well – up to the ceiling.
Once more I am master of my demons: I have understood.
I was at the edge of a beach with the tide rising. The waves of sleep wanted nothing
to do with me and tossed me, shattered, onto the reefs of life. I will stand upright on the
dune, braced with the desire to fall, but blinded by the whiteness of a night of spume and
sand.
Ah, I am really going mad! And Madness – o sickly mouth with contagious breath
that ripped off my ear – in a monstrous voice prompts me with its poisonous doubt:
– When you lose your mind, does it start suddenly or gradually?
I repeat this docilely. And Madness looks at me with its staring eyes.
Docilely…my understanding ever more diminished. I surprise myself by saying:
– When you lose your consciousness does it start suddenly or gradually?
Then, thoughtfully:
Will sleep take me in a spasm or will it stroke me, slowly and surely, with an eternal
wing?…
*
It was a rebellious child who no longer believed in sleep.
At first he had doubted God, and the concept of human liberty; then the material
world and his own existence.
God had shrouded himself in mist, had disappeared from his heaven; the weakening of
his will abandoned the field to instinct’s whims; objects only kept a form, a colour and the
feel of dreams; their empire had fallen; no longer were they durable, solid or real. And the
child began to merge with their disorder and lose his sense of self.
He had had his doubts about love, and love had targeted other, more passionate hearts.
He even started to question dreams themselves, awake or sleeping; and sleep, memorysplashed,
white as ghosts, black as nothing; peopled sleep, deserted sleep; now an imitation of
life, and now of death. He had already doubted life, now he doubted death itself.
And sleep came to take revenge for all of them: it came treacherously, slight and
naked, twilight-skin scarce lit by hair the colour of moon. A short dagger flashed in its
clenched right fist. Under a rain of blows, the rebellious child shook with laughter, exposing
his throat; not one so much as touched him. Without being aware of it, he had instinctively
kept out of reach until now, resisting the lure of a deathly blade. But as he laughed he closed
his eyes. Sleep struck him a fatal blow, without malice – as if it was joking.
And death came, attracted by the odour of poppies. It touched the body cautiously
and, without waking it, made of it a corpse.
12
*
Tuesday morning, seven o’clock
Jersey, 21 September 1920
(Letter)
…last night, tired of the rain, of myself, of an old English man who whispered your
name and refused to understand, (refused, as they always do, to discuss anything properly),
tired of Bob’s too-long presence in the bar, of his absence, I smoked far too much. My heart
started racing and clicked curiously on every beat – mysterious misfiring motor. On the verge
of fainting, I lay down on a mattress which continually struggles free. You know the
feeling…
… then came sleep accompanied by the most hideous of its freed slaves: nightmares.
To rid myself of these sempiternal supplicants, I deliver them unto you.
It was night time – but not very dark. A wan sky sickly freckled with stars. A northwesterly
was raging in long, irregular gusts. I should have put out my cigarette because,
walking westwards, the wind blew smoke, ash and even some tiny embers back into my eyes,
onto my eyelids.
A group of sailors crossed my path. From their slurred speech and the fact that they
didn’t stop pissing as they walked along, more or less in time with their actual steps, I
realized they were drunk. I turned my face away hoping that old Steel wasn’t among them. I
needn’t have bothered: there was no mistaking the inimitable accent which uttered these
words:
– Where did you find your left hand when you woke up this morning, my little lad?
To my horror, I heard his companion reply with the sweetness of a young girl:
– On top of my right of course, Sir!
They went by…
…And I soon found myself completely lost among a dense forest of lances made from
deformed trunks, the blue of a dirty horizon. It was the army on manoeuvre.
Then this mad, uncontrollable thought struck me like well-aimed bullet:
‘What folly to compulsorily arm all able-bodied men with lethal weapons and not
subject their souls to an aptitude test!’
It’s morning. After such a night how could the sky look anything other than sick? A
blotchy complexion and the sun obscured beneath eyelids with leaden dark circles.20
The husky town-crier of Croisic21 just made an announcement. From the beach
further down, where I am, his pot-bellied instrument looked as tall as a house to me.
– News: A child has been killed in the parish of Guerande, thirty…rrrr… three years22
old: Yves Claudanac. Information on the murderer, 26, rue Saint-Antoine. A reward is
offered.
While this was going on I saw all the spectators’suspicions manifest themselves,
feature by feature on the drum-skin, as if on a taut magic lantern screen, fade then re-appear:
13
the notorious thugs of the neighbourhood, one of the child’s uncles, who stood to inherit, and
then the mother herself. The image of this lady persisted, disappearing one minute only to
come back in a reconstruction of an imagined throat-slitting the next. This woman,
passionate, irreligious and not much of a gossip, was taken for a madwoman in the area. She
drew strange looks and prejudice. Since evidence of her innocence was not forthcoming, she
was charged and imprisoned, while she repeated in a monotonous tone – like a cow
ruminating – really having lost her head on this occasion:
– Yes it was I who sent him to his death!
This was taken for a confession. And the Claudanac girl walked to the guillotine as if she
was heading for the Promised Land, laughing through her tears…
– ‘It’s good she was condemned,’ someone said. ‘She was only pretending to be mad.’
What did this woman have left to live for? Yes, she was pretending, the crowd was
right.
Does time really beat truly in this broken-down old clock of a world? However
impossible it might be, I have the impression that the other event – the other execution –
occurs simultaneously.
A soldier is on guard on the ramparts. The glint of his bayonet wounds my soul. I’ve
been rolling the little bullet they removed from the child’s body in my pale palm for a long
time – a bullet from a service revolver.
I go up to the sentry and borrow his weapon. Against all expectation he allows
himself to be disarmed and shows no surprise. But before taking it to one side to check my
inexplicable intuition I could not prevent myself from addressing these incongruous words to
him:
– ‘Look, here is an old serrated`kitchen knife you can use to defend yourself while I
am gone’…
A single bullet was missing from the revolver and the one I had fitted perfectly – like
Cinderella’s glass slipper.
The rest is a matter for the courts. Let’s just listen to the rapid confession of the guilty
soldier:
‘All my misfortune stems from the morbid taste for hunting rabbits my father
encouraged from childhood…
‘On the day in question I was idling on sentry duty when I caught sight of a small
white moving dot, and I swear to you it was not much bigger than my usual target…No, I am
not trying to excuse myself: it was a child and I knew it. I took aim nevertheless and hit the
black centre as accurately as if I was shooting at a paper target – and with scarcely more
emotion. No, I am not trying to make myself out to be cynical…
‘My misfortune had sprung from inside myself and you can do nothing about it. It
started when I felt the blood come out of my veins, spilling all over my body, brimming over
– worse than the way the river flooded this Spring! My arms were saturated in it, heavy and
soggy. I was afraid to touch my face, anticipating its stickiness under my slimy finger nails;
and I lifted my hands to the sky as high as I could – a truly involuntary prayer – for fear of
seeing the hideous liquid I was floundering in – flooded, drowned, suffocating – ooze from
them into the soil. I had made a hole in the earth like a cat when your men came to arrest me.
And I was cleansing myself of all that nauseating filth of blood with this very knife…
14
‘Don’t make me wait for the guillotine, I entreat you!’
I went to the execution. I can testify that the wretch’s blood flooded over the edge of
the bucket and stained the public square with long criss-crossing rivulets. And everyone drew
back for fear of being spattered.
The key to these dreams
The soldier’s blood is just a symbol when it comes down to it: our minds pour
themselves out in sleep. I am repelled by this dream and yet I hold on to it: it has the import
of a Spartan slave23 for me. Never loose your footing, introspection, consciousness. Madness
is no less conceited than reason. The soul is an idiot that needs to be put in its place from
time to time.
II
MYSELF
(For want of anything better)
The siren is beguiled by her own voice
The sailors are far too occupied with navigating their vessel and the song of their flesh. The
siren is the only victim of the siren. If later it is claimed she has overcome other prey we will
always recognize a romantic or commercial imperative: None is seized by her spells alone.
15
*
Anxious dawn.
Horizon lost in the waves’ mist. Fragile, a crystal sky, a blue-grey sky…
(Her eyes become murky and fade; her breasts prowl and their roses of love, their
pistils stand up.) – Sun, impatient beams!
Scarcely blue on high the turquoises are dying. Flat and dappled, nippled, like fields
of sand or emerald, grey dunes, pearl desert, monotonous morning already begun.
Corrupt as a marine landscape, the child awakes and contemplates himself: Sad look!
– Is it really necessary to live this wasted day?
*
False impressions24.
– Some more?
– No thankyou.
– This child is not greedy.
The child (off): I like better quality chocolates.
– Young girls, young boys?
– No thank you.
– Are you celibate?
– Of course.
The young man, going back down stairs: Hades! Your flames are not hot enough!
– He is modest (due to pride). – He lives simply (false luxury disgusts him). – He is
generous (because it’s less easy to harm courteously). – Intelligent (for want of anything
better). – Likeable (I have to be. For loneliness, alas, requires such physical and spiritual
munificence). – Discreet, tolerant, benevolent…(beware of my ulterior motives!)
– He suffered with daring; he died without complaint…(I am a masochist and I
screamed so loudly with joy that your feeble human ears couldn’t hear a thing.)
16
*
Guillotine window.
A sheet of glass. Where shall I put the silver? Here or there; in front of or behind the
window?
In front. I imprison myself. I make myself blind. What does it matter to me, Passerby,
if I provide you with a mirror to see yourself in, all be it a distorting mirror and signed by
my own hand? I’m not a dealer in mirrored wardrobes, or comical swing mirrors25
(tragic, indeed; but banal tragedy. The ridiculous being a characteristic of man, it doesn’t
trouble me). Repellent attractions for the great fairground of human flesh…
Behind. I shut myself in just as much. I will know nothing of what is outside. At
least I will know my face – and maybe that will be enough to please me.
Leave the window clear, and depending on chance and the hour see confusedly,
partially, sometimes the fugitives and sometimes my gaze. Perfect reciprocity. (The one you
know perfected the game, taking advantage of a ‘spy’). Clouded view, shattered lines…you
don’t want to stop, to understand. Can I do that myself?
So – break the windows but don’t be low enough to call in the glazier. (The person
responsible for clumsy damage makes good by repairing it)
With the fragments, make a stained-glass window. Byzantine work.26 Transparency,
opacity. What an avowal of artifice! I will always end up pronouncing my own sentence. I
told you: look at the sign – guillotine window…
May my serpent grip its tail between its teeth without letting go.
*
So then, abolish titles. They are keys. False modesty.
*
Express oneself: humiliate oneself? – Yes, but for the right reason.
Trample on this, this flesh of my flesh. Draw on remorse, weigh on my memory, on
17
my obese statue, the only springboard that doesn’t give way under me.
Is that shapeless, enormous, distressing, horribly voluptuous thing, lying across my
path? Opportunist soul: flow onto the body.
‘Soul’. I misused the word. Superstition, obsession with the unknowable. What I
cannot chew is precisely what I like to bite off. ‘Love’, ‘Conscience’, ‘God’,
‘selflessness’!…I, Jewish to the point of using my sins for my salvation, of putting my byproducts
to work, of always surprising myself, my eye hooked over the edge of my own waste
paper bin.
And whatever I gather to myself, I will handle it with care, subjecting it to all my
formulas, try out all my names, all my things on it, make room for it. My skeleton key will
try all the locks. Can’t it get any of them to open? I’ll plant it there. Right in front of me.
It will be still of use. A wire, black or living, a stalk.. A corolla of folded paper, a
dress. A beautiful idol.
At the end of the day: laziness. For a moment I am happy with it. I stay where I am.
You caught me in the throes of pride, grovelling for so very little.
*
I close my eyes and await the visual nursery-nurse. Hypnagogic image. My
interpretation of it betrays me. So much the better: you only get a grip on yourself, only learn
to see yourself through some judas.
In deep undergrowth roses, of whiteness pure and hard, hurl their blue thorns.
Behind, purple and violet leaves form a thick mass, seemingly infinite, against which
strutting flowers fan their tails, corollas preciously artless, alluringly artless : pale
columbines, slightly pearly, lillies with disdainful pollen, Adonis flowers with stems that slim
too suddenly, their growing too pliant and awkward. Little fox-gloves hatch along these
stems, not sure whether to be flowers or pass for leaves, new leaves still chrysalides…
On moss blancched by shade, Prince Charming has condemned himself to sleep
without cheating; to sleep while awaiting the deliverance worthy of his destiny, worthy of his
proud virginity and through it, triumphant; to sleep forever.
(In the Garden of Pure Poisons27 innocence, because easy – or rather, necessary – is
terribly overrated, not to mention that it’s too common there to be considered a virtue).
Parsifal approaches the protective roses, he feels he was destined to awaken the
Prince.
(Now, Parsifal is as pure as anyone from the other side of the undergrowth can be:
where merit is great, be it arduous and slow, imperfection persists.)
Thus the air without dust and the flowers without odour and the Prince’s mouth full of
absolute purities suffice and will long suffice to suffocate us, us and our foolhardy virtues.
18
*
Watertight bulkheads.
Ambition: to live without a support, as if of the plant species.
Place one’s ideal in oneself, sheltered from the elements.
It’s about converging lines. They don’t meet for long. Where they stop is arbitrary.
Continue to bring these lines to life, each in its own direction: you will correctly call them
divergent.
Two parallel lines meet at infinity… How obliging words are!…It’s the verbosity of
bad friends, those who knowing very well that they are failures, defeated in advance,
incapable of giving us happiness here below on earth, offer it to us in abundance elsewhere,
aleatoric, opening an easy credit account for us with no guarantee of heaven in the after-life.
It has been said that you shouldn’t become too attached to the body because beauty is
nothing more than a play of light. Ephemeral. Illusory. What to say about the soul then? I
understand others body and soul.
Body and soul you should become attached to yourself. Equilibrium. You change at
the same time as yourself. You wouldn’t know how to cheat on yourself. You walk in your
own footsteps. No danger of losing your own trail. The rest? – Buy the ones that amuse you.
And the most materialistic gold, to pay for friendship, will be the purest gold. Your house is
simply furnished. One fine day: you’re sick of the sight of it! Midnight flit.
Love?… over-happy lovers make a couple like a hermaphrodite monster28 or siamese
twin brothers. If it can’t be untied, this Gordian tangle must be severed, this serpents’ nest…
Two parallel lines meet at infinity… I’ve never been able to appreciate this definition.
Who will define infinity for me? – It’s plain to see that I don’t have a scientific mind.
*
Shadow boxing.
I am (the “I” is) the outcome of God multiplied by God divided by God:
God X God
__________ = me = God
GOD
(Therein some ways to deal with the absolute! One can see that…etc…)
19
*
In whom to trust, Lord?
If he deceives us (whatever he is), if he makes just one mistake, we lose our faith. But
if, in a thousand gropings, I should once put my finger on God, (at the bottom of my heart and
even if I tell myself not to) then I become a prophet.
*
From the invisible, my look-out suddenly exalted cries: ‘Universe!’
But pride isn’t long in falling from my hands and I give you my vote.
With you I give my word to the enemy: What a claim! It’s a maniac, she sees them
everywhere.
*
Surround and then surprise the miracle. May sulking, renunciation, fasting serve to
simplify my surroundings.
I close my eyes to put a limit on the orgy. There is too much of everything. I keep
quiet. I hold my breath. I lie down, curled up, abandoning the confines of my body, I fold
myself in on an imaginary centre…
Already as a child I was playing this game of being an invalid: It will be easier if I
hop. Sharing out the cake while cutting my bit up again. If a cube doesn’t fit into my
construction, I withhold it. One by one I remove them all.
This is not without an ulterior motive… I shave my head, wrench out my teeth, my
breasts – anything that is embarrassing or annoying to look at – stomach, ovaries, the brain,
conscious and covered in cysts. When I have but one card left in my hand, just one heart beat
to notice, but to perfection, of course I will win the trick.
Post-mortem. – No. Even if, reduced to nothing, I would understand none of it. No
more. Who cannot swallow it all cannot swallow the tiniest bit of it.
20
*
Anybody, faced with anything, can find something to marvel at:
(Complimenting his microscope) : Universe!
(Discouraging his telescope) : Atoms!29
*
Tendency to push everything to the absolute, and thus: to the absurd.
*
Self-Love.
The death of Narcissus has always seemed totally incomprehensible to me. Only one
explanation seems plausible: Narcissus did not love himself. He allowed himself to be
deceived by an image. He didn’t know how to go beyond appearances. Had he fallen in love
with the face of a nymph rather than his own, his mortal impotence would have remained the
same.
But had he known how to love himself beyond the mirage his would have been a
happy fate, the epitome of living paradise, the myth of the privileged man, worthy of envy
down the centuries.
That beautiful child was able to extract the infinite from his reflections, while we
remain vibrations away, always the same, incapable of going any further.
Oh Narcissus you could love yourself in everything: sun, your brother, even more
beautiful in the weary night, who reflects a pallor on the moon which he never wearies of
admiring; moon, who can only see his body in the lake where he lies stretched out until dawn;
all colours scattered and each seeks out the most faithful copy of itself among the valley’s
multicoloured columbines; honeys that the bees, your sisters, are so fond of and where the
flowers seek out their fragrance…
You were able to love yourself among wood spirits and nymphs, flattering or truthful
mirrors, unconscious instruments of a separate will. And you remained apart because you
would have known, through your divinity, that you should isolate yourself from the universe,
experience your existence, know and love yourself.
21
Can Narcissus die withered, he whose self-love is fulfilled in an egoism for two, for
many, for all, in the universal orgy?
*
Self-Love.
A hand grips a mirror – a mouth, nostrils palpitating – between swooning eyelids, the
mad fixity of dilated pupils…in the brutal horizon of an electric lamp, palest yellow, mauve
and green under the stars, here is everything, in all modesty! what I wanted to clarify in the
mystery: the neo-narcissism of a practical humanity.
My picture would be of a hypocritical and sensual age where men will prefer their
own contact and their silent scorn for love gossips about others.
Would anyone believe the impossible? Juxtapose morality and other loves against
this picture. The silvering of mirrors thickens. No longer absolute, but agreeably relative, the
being becomes an individual. Pride becomes virtue. The body knows and absolves itself.
The myth of Narcissus is everywhere. It haunts us. It has never ceased to inspire the
things that make life perfect since the fateful day when that wave without wrinkles was
captured. For the invention of polished metal derives from a clear narcissian etymology.
Bronze – silver – glass: our mirrors are almost perfect. We still suffer from their
vertical position; yet it’s more comfortable than lying flat on your stomach on the lawn. Lazy
people stretched out on their shadow admire themselves in the sky. But the slightest irritation
wrenches them from their indolence, with the sound of broken glass the reflection shatters.
Now would be the moment to fix the image in time as it is in space, to seize
completed movements – surprise oneself from behind.
‘Mirror’, ‘fix’, these are words that have no place here.
In fact what troubles Narcissus the voyeur most is insufficiency, when his own gaze is
interrupted.
*
Narcissus and Narcissus.
Marriage contract:
As stupid as a baptism. But if I have the grace not to recant, sweet revenge!
Catechism, communions, confirmation, mass and everything!
Recantation:
22
Suicide – divorce on the grounds of incompatible moods.
Jealousy:
Caught in the throes of passion being unfaithful to one’s temperament.
Adultery:
For some the body, for others the soul, plays the part of the indulgent husband
The parents-in-law:
They separate us, and they bring us back together. But they never knew anything
about it.
Absolute Narcissism:
Non-cooperation with God. Passive resistance.
*
Adjourned for a week.
The man struggles in the arms of destiny:
– Not yet, Lord! I’m only ninety. Admit that it would be premature to judge my work,
this rough sketch of body and soul.
*
Quiet games.
This is the torment of Tantalus30. But what makes Narcissus despair is not that he
cannot drink himself, nor the solid, infrangible mirror-bound space31, the coldness that
separates the window from the image. Between him and himself something else exists to be
smashed. Always a quarter moon, never fulness. Always a partial clarity. From his ideal he
sees enough of the rest of the world to disgust him – little, too little, nothing to make him
happy.
A look attracts him, a mouth rebuffs him. He applies himself to the proud scrutiny of
a new power and finds himself confronting the opposite of his triumph: this power is a new
weakness.
What contradictions does dreaming not bring to deceitful reality? – I want this
thought, I see it… Stop there, reproduce it in the sky. I painfully sculpted this muscle; will it
melt in my own heat while I wear myself out making some other improvements, while I still
23
have so much to do.
Why does God force me to change faces. Why does God wreak havoc with my
deplorable qualities. Under this Penelope’s tooth the spider’s thread snaps32. Why am I
unravelled the minute I close my eyes?
*
I can’t answer my own questions. Maybe another time I’ll place my nets better.
III
E.D.M
“Surely you are not claiming
to be more homosexual that I?..”
24
MOROSE
DELIGHTS
(About forgetting)
The curtain had been raised
five
maybe six times;
but it ended unlifted
staying down on the Actor.
I remain alone with my prey
palpitating now, it will escape me,
alone in a blurred crowd,
which will go far away, dispersing,
poring over a problem
of insufficient gifts.
I’ll try so hard to see her floating hair again
smudged in the stage set,
hairnet of stars,
delicate network of the uncombed night…
In vain
my memory swells in vain.
Beside you,
Life
(Actor)
how poor am I!
Come back,
be it in an ugly role,
deliver me from morose
remembrances,
fill my empty
eyes,
compel me to lift one more eyelid.
In vain.
My memory swells in vain,
gorged with its false treasures.
Everything I pull out from there,
wilted, spineless,
is like weeds come out of the water.
25
It’s my whole life that I pull from there,
Everything put back into question
for not having known how to live so that
on the day of reckoning
the festival day
today
I would have been able to prolong for an instant
this instant sunk without trace.
(about forgetting)
Certain pleasures too fresh
to produce all their flavour
need to ferment
like grape juice
and grow old
in the cellars of our memory.
From now on one will ponder
whether morose delight,
passed through the sieve of time
isn’t preferable to pleasure.
It is the juice of it,
the corrupted liquid
concentrated, purified,
stronger and more lasting.
If you prefer late wine
made from sunburned grapes,
each season you will make
the vintage of your memories.
And you will drink them at your leisure.
*
(about a difficult child)
Recognize in this son
the mysterious mixture
of seed.
And when love is over,
meditate on its growing proof,
and sorrowfully rejoice.
26
May a downward smile
explain and deny
the bitter fold of your mouth,.
Be indulgent to your son;
look after him well this hypocrite,
beautify this talkative keepsake,
give thanks unto him:
You can make us believe in admirable love
which in the old days was never yours.
*
(about love)
They passed close by me
the lovers,
more loving and more pure than ever we were,
buried under a snowdrift of caresses.
They were oblivious of my presence,
my envy, admiration or shock.
They passed close by without seeing me,
heedless, not noting my emotion.
And more than anything
their disdain was harsh delight to me.
And their unconcealed tenderness, my pleasure.
Lovers, fear nothing from me:
My jealousy wavers between you, undecided..
I resent your abstraction, that’s all.
(About art)
These marble statues firm and polished
more than the best pumiced skin,
these bodies white and slim
more than the best made Adonis,
muscles that are dear to sculptors…
– Haven’t they ennobled their models?
I grant that these cold nobilities
discourage audacious lovers…
– And more! Lucien de Samosate33 would say.
27
But for those who humanely seek
the evocation of a memory,
what relief these tangible images provide!
Art is the very greatest morose delight,
A sad and tender attempt to immortalize our pleasures,
to remember passing love.
*
(about a painful moment)
– At the time, I can assure you,
it had nothing agreeable about it;
it didn’t seem to be anything at all.
Morose sensuality
matured by memory…
Just at its best for suffering.
*
Vocation
Would anyone have the right to be jealous of you? Which man of our times is rich enough to
possess you? Who would be permitted to hide you away? You are too handsome, too dear,
too famous! You are a museum piece, truly public.
Will anyone dare censure the Venus of Praxitele34 for offering herself to everyone;
naked, beguiling, immodest – indifferent?
*
The misunderstood beggars
Who wishes for caresses receives blows. Turn the sentence round and say with me:
28
‘It’s a worse shame! It’s the ultimate insult!’
These ones are asked for gold, or if not gold (which doesn’t exist any more) a similar
product. No empty phrases: Let someone sign me a cheque and say no more.
They will willingly give more than they’ve been asked for (the superfluous for want of
necessities): good words, bits of advice that are resonant and stumbling…
Those ones (who are not the same ones), are asked for a little love, some ‘seeminglove’.
We’d be happy with some counterfeit money, with false smiles, a trouser button… we
promise not to check their alms.
But here they are giving you a complimentary ticket, a dinner – a hundred sous coin –
instead of the dear word you expected.
Affectations.
*
Sodom, city of light
We say ‘Fire from the Sky’35 to simplify things, like telling children they were born in
a cabbage. In reality, Sodom blazed up by itself at the amorous contact of its inhabitants with
the Angels of the Lord God.
That master of ceremonies, parsimonious, had only provided one pair of them – o
communism!..speed was essential. Rub two flints together, you’ll see sparks fly! Dry wood
itself (if you know how to set about it) is inflammable.
*
Fourth dimension
My angel is often late. I willingly wait for him. But what is left of me when he finally turns
up?
A shout. – Help! But why? Why did I call you? Tension, resistance. I fell asleep,
paralysed. I had moved without knowing it: my crowd had jostled me…
The angel arrives and the thing escapes me where his intervention could give us the
universe or love.
29
*
Clairvoyant
Feminism is already among the fairies. Magicians will show our little boys that one can
dispense with these dry wet nurses. And life will be no less continuous as a result nor less
discontinuous.
Once upon a time there were two sorcerers whose patience was legendary. They had
traced the course of rivers and tidal currents where the fishes warmed themselves. They had
lovingly observed the reproductive processes of various animals, from anemones to man.
They knew how to prepare the philosophers’ seed36.
One full moon (the moon joins the party), our two wise men brought together all of
magician-kind, scattered among the peoples, for their wedding night. And having united in
the traditional manner they deposited in the cradle, which had been placed there with
auspicious foresight, two little slugs: one was slim, agile, green and white; the other was
white and green, slender, tangled. In the blink of an eye they had merged and formed just one
body. It was a completely ordinary seed, a germinating, sprouting, budding grain of wheat.
And the amazed crowd witnessed a little man beginning to grow beneath their very
eyes, like a plant in an unscrupulous fakir’s flower pot. With each new spurt of growth they
expected that he would be missing a limb. No such thing however. Nothing was missing, it
seemed, in the composition or even the beauty of the newborn.
As soon as he stopped visibly growing – after seven seconds – the infant was chosen to
be Prince (they could do no less!) And the two husbands disappeared, fearing that they might
place their son in an awkward position with such a questionable and controversial paternity.
He was fourteen at the time, having lived two years a second. Already the master of
bodies, he soon commanded souls. Everyone loved him – especially women. The most
beautiful virgins, fairies humiliating themselves, accomplished women, all solicited him in
vain. He was repulsed by the female sex; their weaknesses were all the more apparent to him
since he hadn’t had a mother to deposit, incubate and hatch blind love in his heart.
This is the role of women, the only one that really matters to them: to inspire breast
worship in the newcomer, whoever he is: black or white, ill-formed or deformed, made of ice,
of fire or cinders.
All around the Prince the crafty besotted beings whispered, claiming that in them and
them alone lay the mystery without mystery, the equivalent of this world with its reason for
being, the phases of the tides, the pulsation of the soil, the orgasm of the planets, everything
that he still found incomprehensible due to the influence of some evil spell.
Clairvoyant only heard those words: ‘evil spell’, and went away brooding…his birth
was described as obscure. It did not befit a nobleman’s dignity to know nothing of his
ancestors. He set about finding them.
This was easy enough: the double androgynous seed is a mixture of unidentifiable
proportions; and this mixture can produce a new body, different to those who created it,
averse, hostile to any attempts at closeness. But the male seeds align themselves side by side
30
and their alloy is a simple and stable blend.
The Prince had no hesitation in recognizing his mother and father – we’d better say
‘his parents’. He complained to them about an excess of honesty which caused his senses to
render everything that came near him, everything he touched, sterile.
‘Do you wish for illusion, my son?’ asked the less wise magician (because the other
was mute). ‘Look at my husband, my brother: you have deeply disappointed us.
‘However I will grant you your whim. Take this ring: it contains the missing seed, the
one we wanted to spare you at your birth…’
The ridiculous young lad put the engagement ring on his finger and went out into the
night.
As he took his third step he saw something that made him stop, filled with wonder:
‘what a chaste, ideal and gracious vision! This can be nothing less than a goddess…’ For we
always identify as chaste the things that affect us physically.
He threw himself at her…and the sow (for it was a sow) who had no prejudices, no bias
against human flesh, after a short grunt of surprise and love, gulped down this unexpected
truffle of a white and monstrous variety in one go. Then, having savoured it slowly,
assimilated it.
IV
31
C .M. C
Permit me to warn the youthful and unwise:
seeing the trap doesn’t prevent you from getting caught in it
and that doubles the pleasure.
A U R I G E37
PORTRAIT
Ferocity, lasciviousness, monstrous egotism…there are plenty of inconsistent
circumstances and details; it could be toned down…but what for? We should learn to select
only what is essential. Easy enthusiasms, faithful and lasting – but hardness of heart.
Redundant breasts; irregular, ineffectual teeth; eyes and hair of the blandest colour;
hands delicate enough but twisted, deformed. The oval head of a slave; forehead too high…or
too low; a nose fashioned well enough of its type – a hideous type; the mouth, too sensual:
pleasing when you’re hungry but once you’ve eaten it makes you want to vomit; the chin
hardly juts out at all; and over the whole body the muscles only sketched.
Triumphant woman!…sometimes triumphant in the face of the most appalling
embarrassments, a last-minute deftness corrects a shadow, an unwise gesture – and beauty is
reborn.
For in front of her mirror Aurige is touched by grace. She consents to recognise
herself. And the illusion she creates for herself extends to a few others.
PLATE ILLUSTRATIONS
It is the accused’s turn to speak:
‘The quest for man. That’s where I’ve got to. But it wasn’t always like that: didn’t I
swear eternal love to her as a child? She already had good sense back then! I remember it
well (the sufferings of those times formed my memory: a painfully raw memory), very well, O
precocious wisdom! – for you replied: ‘you are wrong..as for me, no! I can promise you
nothing like that…how long? I don’t know. I know only that I love you…yes I will get
married…when? Soon, no doubt.’ Admirable candour! And wasted…I was incapable of
appreciating it – and that’s understandable: impassioned, almost hysterical, unworthy…and far
from coveting it, hating all the serenity in the world with great fervour!
‘By dint of insisting I persuaded her to promise me one year – she agreed, but
reluctantly. She had told me to leave that day, shut herself in her room, alone, to think deeply
about such a serious decision. She came out. I was there: ‘well?’ I asked (for I couldn’t stop
thinking about it. Nor could she come to that). But she replied: ‘Well what?…I am going to
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the garden, Mother is asking for her flowers. Are you going to stay here?’ Nobody gets rid of
me that easily. I am stubborn: Forever, say, forever? – I am bargaining; and seeing that she’s
about to get angry reduce my claims: one year, say, one year? Just promise me one year, it’s
not such a big thing…unable to evade me any longer she gives me a hard look, thoughtful,
serious: ‘One year, so be it.’ And it’s as if she’s giving money to a beggar she knows is only
feigning poverty just so I’ll leave her in peace.
‘However this promise wasn’t a false coin; she had weighed it up, she intended to keep
it. She did keep it largely. To her great credit, she is absolutely loyal above everything else.
‘This then was the malicious genesis of our love. And here we are, nearly fifteen years
later…’
PSYCHOLOGICAL PORTRAITS
No. I will only do rough sketches. When the mechanism has been completely
deconstructed, the mystery remains intact. Sometimes chance hands us a little swatch of soul.
We put it away in a drawer. Soon it will be impossible to match it with the piece of fabric it
originally came from, now become a dress or curtain, ironed, washed, often dyed. Once more
my comparison is rather feeble and poor.
Nevertheless I will take pleasure in uttering some unfair and provisional words, and
say enough of them to highlight the force of illusion each carries in his glands; the force that
allows him to temporarily overlook the most obvious points of conflicts.
Taking it as read that man, by nature, allows his life to be governed by: fear, sexual
instinct, vanity, greed, compulsive lying, self-idolatry, pride – and all shades of these seven
virtues – I’d like to limit myself to simply noting that in this context Aurige represents true
love, her master fear and pride, and her lover worldly vanity. Of course, at the beginning of
the crisis, all three will have to make a sacrifice to sexual instinct. But their familiar demons
will quickly regain the upper hand.
Let us open this triptych for a moment:
A: Aurige
principle characteristics: weakness and egotism.
declared ideals: the underlying force of all things, the desire to change, to reconstruct oneself.
B: Aurige’s proprietor
principle characteristic: reserve
secret ideal: dignity
C: the poet, Aurige’s lover.
principle characteristics: the need to get involved in everything, an inconsistent and easily
squandered energy..
declared ideal: renunciation
This is far too cursory. I will never define them as well as they define themselves. I’m
going to ask them questions and write down their replies. That will be better; they’re sure to
betray themselves whatever they say.
What would you like to be?
A – More and better. My own idea of perfection. And all the others into the bargain.
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B – A fish in the sea, a lizard in the sun – a seal, a happy animal.
C – Buddha, a great man, a well-known dramatist, some great poet like Swinburne or
Baudelaire, an asphodel or any other flower for they’re all beautiful, a simple gentleman
farmer from a very old noble line retired from the world or Cakya-Mouni…an oriental queen,
depraved and refined, whom none can resist and who harbours only scorn for all her suitors
What would you like to do?
A – The impossible.
B – Have a very simple life, a life with nothing to do.
C – Write beautiful dramatic comedies, live in the tranquillity of the fields or in the beauty of a
sumptuous palace, waited on by a thousand slaves in great luxury, make a success of all my
friends’ lives, launch the most famous film stars, direct X’s play…which all Paris will flock to
see and bring in lots of money for poor Z…who is in dire need of it, make Aurige be quiet,
speak instead of Jack.
What would you like to know?
A – The way to make the impossible happen, knacks, if any exist. Which path to follow – but
since time is of the essence: a short cut.
B – Everything that it’s perfectly useless to know. My mental curiosity knows no bounds but I
have no curiosity where my emotions are concerned and I wish to avoid anything that might
awaken them. Physically, as I’ve said, I’d like to have total possession of the most effective
instincts for defence and protection.
C – Real occult knowledge as practised by the initiated (I know about the rest for the most
part). I’d like to know how to cure the ills of man, what diet I could follow to help my
rheumatism, what antidote to give the hysterical love of our frenzied mistresses..if
hermaphrodites really exist, if Madame X…sleeps with men. Know how to make potions for
love and immortality, the recipe for the hemlock Socrates took to die in beauty
What distinguishes you. What are your most obvious characteristics?
A – The dominance of my body over my desire for power, the tyrannies of its weaknesses. I
am not suited to grasping objective realities, or adapting to the incessant vicissitudes of life. A
slow, sluggish mind; delayed reactions. Taking pride in everything I’d like to be, in my own
superlative self. Systematic deprecation of all realities, starting with my own. Shyness born
of self-consciousness. Superstitious, but never in a traditional way; I only believe in the
monsters I’ve created myself, I will only believe in the Messiah who comes down for me in
me, made to measure and incomparable. Inability to imagine anything concrete, proper nouns
for example. Love of abstraction, symbols.
B – Tolerance and respect for the rights of others. A sense of responsibility. Always keeping
my word, however disagreeable it might be. Disdain for everything garish, rowdy, tasteless. I
am always afraid of overrating myself. Complete fear about what other people think, even the
ones I most despise – at least of their overt disapproval: that has an unpleasant physical effect
on me. A great indifference towards my real desires as soon as any obstacles are put in their
way. A horror of taking the initiative, of anything new, risking failure. An awful compulsion
to confess my wrongs along with all the facts down to most minor detail. On the whole, a
modesty which seems to alarm my friends. They don’t realize that at the bottom of my heart
lies a sense of my own secret superiority, of my goddess Reason, which never leaves me. An
active and discerning critical sensibility. A taste for debate, logic, precision, poetry, for
34
illogicality with all its papers in order, word for word. A horror of anything ridiculous.
C – A sense of theatre, love of beauty, poetry, refinement, a gentleman’s education, not taking
offence, protection of the weak, love of animals, extravagance, courage, energy, intelligence,
practical good sense, poetic imagination. Staggering speed of thought. Clairvoyance.
Aestheticism. Creative force.
What are your least obvious traits?
A – Courage, physical endurance, what they call strength of will, altruism, common sense, –
not at the point of conception but always in the execution.
B – Vanity. All the qualities that we consider to be the lifeblood of Americans and Jews: brute
ambition and aggressive (sometimes even defensive) artifice. And yes, to a certain extent, the
instinct for preservation.
C – Egoism, vanity, scepticism, taking pleasure in destroying things, English hypocrisy, French
indiscretion, stubbornness, sensuality.
What do you like about yourself?
A – My ceaseless astonishment with life. My infantile questionings. The warm feelings I have
for anybody I meet, at the very first glance (as short as that is), at the first word. My refusal to
judge anything without having first taken everything into consideration. My moral
vacillations. My scrupulous and scandalous candour. My need for perfection.
B – This is the hardest question. I’ve never thought about it. I can only reply in a negative
fashion: the things which could be even worse. However, to reply positively, common sense.
C – My equanimity, my good education, my virility, my detachment from materials things. A
philosopher’s wisdom and a poet’s humane passion.
What do you least like about yourself?
A – My cowardice.
B – Everything that could make me suffer or make others suffer.
C – My fatigue, my rheumatism, my poor blood circulation, my imperfect earth-bound
reasoning. My excessive forbearance, my exaggerated gentleness, my sensitivity and my
limitless generosity.
What displeases you the most in general?
A – being caught off guard, being forced to change my plans, replying without preparation,
writing with no crossings-out, being seen without make-up, even if that make-up gives me an
ugly hue, suffering from badly strung nerves. That was the reply my body gave. – From the
point of view of sensitivity, I will reply: human beings. Everything about them that seems to
me superficial, conventional, unjust, greedy, unreasonable, second hand. Human cruelty. But
my guess is that that’s not so much about loathing as fear. I always identify with the victims.
I find it difficult to reply on the intellectual level, all I can say is: it displeases me, privately, to
catch myself in the wrong even if over a trifle. I instantly lose confidence in the entire
universe. All in all it’s still a passionate approach.
B – Vulgarity, folly, mental weakness, ugliness, lack of self-control. And everything that
affects the senses disagreeably.
C – Ugliness, malice, pretentiousness, stupidity, Anglo-Saxon idleness, Breton tyranny and
stubbornness, scenes, anger, ingratitude, complacency and conceit. The cruelty of man
towards flies and horses.
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What pleases you?
A – For my body: calmness, silence, darkness, sunshine, swimming in the sea at dawn (in
summer), the light intoxication derived from several days’ fasting. For my passions: human
beings, their strength, their health, their balance; but also beautiful imbalances and lovely
weaknesses. Recognizing myself in them, idealized by a flesh more appealing than my own.
And then: everything that gives me a strong impression of something new yet easily
assimilated.
B – Sleep, dreams, the sea, sunshine, gaiety, sport, books, paintings, silence, contemplation
(day dreaming). Protecting and maybe tyrannizing a little. Animals, children. Ideas.
C – Animals, innocent trees, flowers, women who are beautiful, elegant, depraved, supremely
indifferent and detached, Nature, Cakya-Mouni and the Art of Poetry.
What do you hope for?
A – The unknown, an original hope. The miracle that is yet to come.
B – The past. The repetition of the past until death. I mean that’s the happiest that I can
imagine. I expect nothing from the future. Nothing except ordinariness. Or maybe the
atmosphere of dreams, life becoming easy. Or eternal sleep with or without dreams.
C – Nirvana.
What do you fear?
A – The unknown. That I would give up on myself at the same time as my master succeeded
in intervening to conceal my emptinesses, my stupid pastimes, my shortcomings from me.
Feeling that I am not attaining my true level, low as it already is. Unbearable physical
suffering.
B – Suffering.
C – The past beginning all over again.
Happiest moments of your life?
A – Dreaming. Imagining myself to be different to how I am. Playing my preferred role.
B – Indifference. Sleep. Dreams. Or the simple, purely physical life.
C – That’s really indiscreet! – and not very interesting.
The most unhappy?
A – Physical, emotional and intellectual suffering. I wouldn’t know how to decide which is
the worst.
B – When other people annoy me. When Aurige is in a bad mood. Worries about the future,
indecision, insomnia.
C – When I see people who have loved me dying.
Why are you afraid to die right now, out of the blue?
A – I abandon my unfinished sentence. How restful! My distress isn’t based on when but how
I will have to chuck it all in. And there, I confess, the cowardice of this body, of this bitch
body, terrifies me.
B – I am not afraid.
C – Certainly not, quite the opposite. Stupid question!
Why do you prefer yourself to all others?
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A – Because this person is the only one I can use to prefer everyone else. She is the nearest
thing to me, the implement I have to hand. Because I feel, because I am, because I cannot do
otherwise.
B – Well there’s nothing in it. If I sometimes happen to show myself some kind of preference
it’s through absent-mindedness. Aurige is always one step ahead of me. In my mind I judge
lots of others to be preferable to us.
C – So it’s insults now is it? Prefer myself! The first gentleman who comes here will give you
an appropriate answer.
EXPLANATIONS
B – Listen Aurige! If you love him, leave me. I don’t want you to but I’ll get over it…Don’t
start thinking you’re indispensable.
A – (How to reply to that?)…I don’t love him enough to leave you…
B – Well, Aurige, since it’s me you love after all you have to be honest and stop lying.
A – (How to reply to that?)…I don’t wish to lie. It’s him, it’s you who compel me to do it. I
certainly don’t love him, but I am afraid that I don’t love you either…not enough to be
‘honest’. (Does it really exist?…no,no! but it’s more a question of whether it’s really
necessary to be ‘honest’?)
C – Stay with your master, Aurige, but sleep with me. He’ll look after you better than I ever
could…(translated: I will never take the trouble to do so) – and I’ll be there for Art, Dreams,
Love…you must just promise me this – you know that when you make love with your master,
I’m always aware of it – promise to love only me, to only sleep with me…
A – (At least I can reply to that!)…But why, why? Since I feel I perfectly capable of sleeping
with both of you.
LETTERS FROM AURIGE TO THE POET
Dead letter: You shall not take
the name of love in vain.
May these hours be short!…How did I get the sad courage to leave when you were letting me
stay? Now it all seems superhuman to me – and so stupid! I shouldn’t have expected you to
chase after me…
I am consoling myself (badly) by thinking that I took the only opportunity for you to
miss me…
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What! With all those wonderful beings around you…you’d have had time to think of
me! And me so small…it’s a mistake, but do make it still. Continue to make this sweet
mistake with me.
…and so, O! treasured memory, will you perhaps come to be born again in my life?
For our thoughts and deeds are constantly born again to counteract their incessant deaths. Poet
have you thought of this?
And the ill-disciplined student can only offer you a little of her madness in exchange,
for which you have no more use than she of your reason.
Despite my determined friendship, and though I am (O! shame!) Precisely of that
vulgar type ‘who must lay heavy hands on life’ I can detach myself from you. I have endured
so many sacrifices in my life! I’m used to it. So I will joyfully accept all that you send my
way. But – despite the appeal to my beloved Plato – (oh you already know the weak spots in
my mind and you take advantage of them!) don’t hope to lead me into choosing sacrifice. This
season it runs contrary to my mood.
On the other hand I cannot bring myself to ‘find flesh gestures ridiculous’ – some
gestures, above all the most useless ones, actually seem beautiful to me, like an art form, due
to their vanity, their perfect sterility. – Or else I’ll condemn all gestures, even those of the
mind…and absolute Stupidity – the kind that can neither grow nor perish, the most unwavering
Mistake, the most deep-rooted, will be my idol…Come on, Poet! Don’t look at me like that:
I’m not as debauched as I try to appear. It’s just my own bad taste, that’s all.
We went into the unfriendly town today; – it seemed strangely changed to me.
Melancholy memories of our recent walks ambushed me at every turn in the street, and I
thought I saw you walking a few steps ahead of me…Don’t get bored. It’s really unhealthy.
Do anything crazy you can think of instead!…
I am desperately hungry for all kinds of drugs. It’s this damned lust obviously. My
Master, so generous with freedom in some circumstances, is suggesting he buys me enough
alcohol to get really drunk. No thank you! It’s too rough for me…
But…
(He allows me this reading: a pleasing tyrant all in all!)
You have to comfort yourself in whatever way you can.
– Woman? Oh yes! – Alas, who are you saying it to! Poet, that’s cruel. But you write
me things so wonderfully compensatory that you almost reconcile me to myself. Me! – the
very modest Narcissus. I’m going to explain my self-love to you…it’s not real. Pure stoicism,
maybe some pride…In reality I have a huge need for other people.
… And I am ready to slyly break all my promises – provided that you would accept my
soul (impervious to all scruples as it is) without contempt, or my rebellious body or even one
and the other…A body is easy to refuse, but a resolute soul!…
Braving even your contempt, my soul is devoted to you, Poet! – And you can do
nothing about it…
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I express myself very, very badly. There are sentences that are not made to be
understood but felt, rather. What is the point of saying: ‘I love you’? I only wish to be able to
think it very forcefully, near you, in the silence…
There is a being in the world who I do not want to deceive at any price – and that being
is you.
I would slander myself rather than try to seduce you with a simulated beauty. So,
despite my self-love (intermittent pride I assure you), I am aware of my faults, my intellectual
defects and my physical flaws. I don’t want you to be unaware of them either. It was out of
candour and not to shock you that I came into your room naked yesterday.
This morning I got out my red notebook and I tried to reconstruct in great detail every
happy, incomplete yet perfect moment that I owe to you – O, my friend! Alas! I am utterly
alarmed by the poverty, the painful omissions of my corrupted memory (ah! I am truly
punished!). Even the sequence of these moments escapes me (oh! elusive recollections)…but
if analysis is no longer possible I still have – through my present suffering – a certain synthesis
of past happiness with which to counter this gloomy day.
And I am living from this impetus, like a machine which keeps running even though its
motor has stopped …
I persist more than I exist – at the mercy of your incisive writing or condemned by your
resilient silence. (I don’t really believe this, you know. You won’t condemn me. I trust you.)
But if you measure out hope too parsimoniously – take care: in a flash of rebelliousness or
vigour, I’ll take a whole armful of my memories and hurl them ahead. Then I’ll turn towards
winter where these memories will be robust hopes. I’ll be brave again – brave enough to
overcome any scruples…I’m talking about yours and not mine. Excuse this rambling and
growl at me, please, my dear. That’s probably why I am writing. My only desire now is to
hear your voice, whatever it has to say to me. Write to me.
I discovered within my vanity the philosopher’s stone of love. With it I can perform
the transmutation of joys: from signs I’ll make sounds; from sounds I’ll make scents; from
scents I’ll make kisses; from kisses I’ll obtain caresses…It’s obvious that I have this power –
but do carry on as though it were nothing!…
I am resigned to following these secret paths and, if I can, I’ll push you onto them: you
must live, dear! – To me that means to love you freely. – And would freedom exist in lies? Of
course: that’s where it belongs. For centuries it has had no other dwelling. Am I cynical? No:
on the contrary, love has rejuvenated me. Often this love was innocent to the point of
clumsiness. I don’t think this is its only charm and I regret it – my only regret!
However, the prospect of staying at…, what a dangerous hope. – Dangerous! If it were
to be disappointed. While I wait the Master comforts me with a kindness – alas! so badly
rewarded: I must be unbearable!
And I could do with the soothing sea, to be calm in a way that mustn’t be confused
with oblivion for that would be contrary to my desire – and totally impracticable.
Where did I leave my beautiful indifference? The inadequacy of that egotism of which
I was so proud is the basis of imbalance. Suppressing it completely would be as good – but
39
then it has to be retrieved in its entirety.
Anyway, where you are concerned, I can’t take back any of my immense tenderness
nor would I wish to – I need it to subdue much graver torments. For I would love them.
‘It occurs to you that perhaps (!) I may be troubled to know you ill’?… By Jove!… and
there’s no need to have a tender heart for this. I’m not too sure about mine – all in all more
bad than good – but I feel utterly distraught, so powerless to ease your sorrow, incurably
distanced from you! – And what would I do if I were close? If not pester you: I scarcely know
how to care for the ones I love!…
You must know how great my anguish is and how great it will continue to be until –
soon, ah soon! – I am assured of your complete recovery…
I would so much have wished to come to…if not to cure your ills, at least to try to
distract you from them…
My one and only
Yes, you are unique, my little god (everyone is one of course but you more so than
anyone else)…
You are unique and I love you, and our friendship – harsh necessity finally opens these
eyes to what you fruitlessly tried for so long to show me – can become an extraordinary joy,
long lasting and unchanging, purified by the tears that sully it…
I shamefully pleaded my very bad case – and lost the trial: the Master always offers me
the same harsh alternative – the golden cage (wide enough at the end of the day) – or the
universe which frightens me.
Continuing with my indecision, the horrifying childishness of my denial, brings too
many sorrows, would risk too many disasters!…and I’ve made my choice.
My values are all wrong for this life – start everything again!…
You must believe me: with you I was in the wrong, I was impetuous, maybe even
worse…but always loyal. And whenever I dragged you off with me, as I often did, I still
doubted, despite all the proof, that men such as my Master, such as you, could exist: honest,
certainly more passionate than me, repelled by the idea of sharing – so different from me, I am
so demanding, debauched – abnormal. I suppose I finally have to admit it!
You are young – ah! So young and so handsome! – and you have many more very
desirable conquests ahead, you will inspire pure passions in beings more worthy of you than I.
I hope for this with all my heart, I who love you with a selfishness bleached by so many tears…
But maybe you will keep a simple, sure and deep friendship for me (is that too
ambitious?)… I ‘m not jealous – at least some virtues emerge from my vices.
Don’t pity me either. My lot will be the most desirable one: I have told you that I felt
compelled to deify whatever I love. You replied that, if love comes true, the game becomes
dangerous. From now on I will be protected from danger – and will be able to get drunk on
adoration, my one and only God!
You see where I am: the return of egotism. My excuse, that I suffered so much during
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those tormented days, could do nothing but aggravate your distress. I take it back. You will
forgive me for approaching you with absolutely no excuse.
Yes I honestly (!) believed that we down here on earth could have and hold anything
we loved and desired so long as they consented!
But I am alone in having such thoughts. I alone am to blame. Say it, I beg you, shout
it – that you have to be left in peace! Everyone should know it…
Write to me that you understand, that you forgive, that you forget, that you will be
happy – already nearly cured. Don’t worry about me: I am used to seeing my dreams pass me
by as I drop my weak oriental arms back down to my sides…
… and why not here?
I don’t know which God I am offering these futile prayers to. The Gods are indulgent
but I do not believe they can answer our cries. They can scarcely maintain their own
happiness! All Gods manage to give the impression that they suffer more and better than men.
Therein lies their superiority.
The countryside is always the same: extraordinarily beautiful. But this year I find its
beauty cold and admire it without loving it. Yet another impotent god!
Every day seems to me to take a long time to live – the evening so much preferable to
the morning! (Except for insomnia).
I also take great pleasure in chatting with you, listening to you above all, and always
will – O! wise voice of the Poet! – and telling you today about my monotonous joys and the
strange anxiety which make the yet un-lived days of this month (over-confident no doubt) into
moments as precious as if they were already memories – mixing the vague with the defined.
Too much insecurity also: I feel myself changing minute by minute, and this together with
impatience and regret. – Is the pneumatic clock aware of its tickings? Is it disturbed by its
inability to slow them down or speed them up as it pleases?…
…sentences nor music. But a higher rhythm possesses me. The fresh air, the clear sea,
sky without blemish, – a commensurate fatigue, a well apportioned rest…
Only a very strong attraction will take me from this land of heart-felt gaiety38. It’s a
stronger love than one feels for a homeland – this is the place where I became conscious of
myself, where I started to imagine that I was thinking! Where I loved myself for the very first
time.
I’m exaggerating!
Write me letters like only you know how to: living, moving, the illusion of your
presence – but not like the last one which nearly made me cry… o! Only out of rage against
you!
And you have no excuse : for the same words that betray me are obedient to you, and
submissive…
But : I love you, and I defy you to turn this phrase against me.
‘To live in Truth and Beauty’…? An irregular wave knocks me over, leaves on my lips
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a trace of bitter spume. Beauty? A look half glimpsed, palpitating eyelids. I covet it,
certainly, but how to attain it? Imperfect as I am, will I dare insist that it never leaves me,
never tires of me?
As for ‘Truth’, shall I confess it to you? I don’t care about it in the least. I’m not
looking for it: I run away from it. And I consider this to be my true duty.
These last weeks you must have, or at least you could have, been thinking badly of my
friendship, if not about me myself…
I haven’t written to you for a long time, I didn’t reply to your last letter, affectionate as
it was and full of good advice – which naturally I won’t take! Alas! Weak people only ever do
things in their heads. They’re not wondering which intellectual regime – or rather moral, I
suppose – the artist should follow in order to produce (with some ‘coaxing’) a tiny little minor
talent…
They live out their fantasies, destroy themselves at will, and are only creative when
they feel like it…Ever violated in vain by ‘Truth’ (with its cortege of bestializing sorrows or
pleasures without dreams), but conscious of their weakness, they rigorously avoid all sacrifice
offered to the heavy machine of glory that would crush them – so out of proportion with these
victims, in short, so ridiculous.
They are passionate about happiness; they’re obsessed with it. Happiness so difficult
for them so difficult themselves that they will have no hesitation in burning everything that
could possibly nourish their idol. The fragile yet unbreakable joy of children has seduced
them. They’ll be deliberately ‘childish’ and keep their maturity at bay unto death if they can.
If I spoke to you about art and untruths, dear incorrigible poet (for it is the poet who
revolts and declares Beauty, ‘Truth’, inseparable – unsociable would perhaps be more
appropriate – something the philosopher could never do), if I spoke to you about art,
understand that it was only about life – life that I call art, no doubt (without too much modesty)
to give it some kind of value. I don’t give a damn about literature, despite your d…
Don’t start believing, because of this conversation which I find most agreeable…
It’s possible to have different opinions about the value of ‘truth’ and still be the best
friends in the world.
You answer ironically, and I wound myself in turn. It would be so simple to chat (or
so it seems to me): observing on your dear face the reflection of a tactless word, taking it back
in time; monitoring the interpretation of sentences, chastising the obscure ones, the guilty
ones… Soon, maybe?
You’ll have to try to convert me to ‘Truth’. I only ask to listen to you, for you will
have some admirable poet’s arguments I am sure. And even if I don’t listen to you properly, at
least I’ll look as though I am…and I’ll look at you! Who knows? Several have been converted
by less…
You have the knack of making me act without thinking, saying things that my lips
disapprove of – so that I am always surprised by myself. No-one else in the world gets so
42
much out of me.
…And otherwise the sun, the sea, love, occupy my body and soul – or to put it more
modestly : mind. No doubt I don’t possess much of a soul…
You’re mistaken : I was twenty seven last October.
FROM THE POET TO AURIGE
The house awaits you and the poet too. Come in three days time. You’ll have every
delicacy, every luxury. I’ve got cushions ready for you, and sorbets. Bath water perfumed
with a spray of orchids will refresh your Adonis-like body…
Don’t deny it : I know everything you think… Oh God! It’s awful being so intelligent!
This letter is the hardest I’ve ever had to write, for I see quite clearly that you don’t
understand me in the least, in all probability you never will understood me, alas!…
I believed you to be sincere and loyal. Alas! I believed you to have a great deal of
courage and talent too! That said, one needs the self-control of a Socrates not to get angry…
The most lovely women of Paris send me roses for the New Year but you decide to
send thorns. In my opinion that’s in very bad taste.
I am sending your letter back unread (I can tell just by looking at it that it’s written
with venom), I’m not even going to read it – for the very good reason that to do so would be
extremely disagreeable for me. Furthermore I do not consider you competent in poetic matters
– and nor does anyone else.
43
I bear you no ill whatsoever; but don’t congratulate yourself on that score: it’s simply
that I consider your behaviour utterly childish, unworthy of your twenty six years and of
absolutely no importance.
Through my relations with other people and thanks to their approbation, thanks to their
perfectly correct opinion of my worth, I have acquired an inviolable self-esteem that your total
lack of esteem and respect for me could never hope to diminish.
When something displeases us it’s a simple matter to keep quiet – as I have done every
time you annoyed me. People of good breeding and education are well aware that this is how
to behave. But I think every little Narcissus can only admire himself; yet he lets his own
beauty down when he barks at others. The Original one was not interested in other people…
You really have gone too far. Perhaps I am a little to blame for having allowed you to
insult me once too often?…
You will find below a remarkable axiom that I have composed:
‘Criticism is easy but Art is very difficult’39
You would do well to meditate on it.
Love and Life, of which Art and Genius are the most beautiful fruits, will only ever be known
by hearts that are free of your intolerable cynicism, by those whom the alchemy of Truth has
designated for the Sublime Initiation.
You should concern yourself with writing a master piece of your own – a work of
Beauty!
And never forget: Silence is golden!
[Two months later]
The house awaits you and the poet too. Come, here you will find rest, every delicacy,
the most lovely women in all Paris and the most handsome boys of Grecian antiquity. With
my own hands I have prepared for you…etc…
THEIR CONCLUSIONS
C – Aurige offered herself – and I refused her. I am the most virtuous among men!
B – The poet courted her, but Aurige preferred me. I am the happiest among men!
A – The poet is a vain peacock and impotent; my Master is brutal and clumsy – I am truly
miserable!… but so many others are adorable, so many others!… I haven’t said my last.
44
IN THE MARGIN
Change of balance.
I have given freely of my soul (prostituted her would be a better word). Nevertheless I
love you with her virgin force. But the soul has taken the name of love in vain so often that
now she’s ashamed and is hiding. Like the shepherd boy in the fable, she cried ‘wolf!’ too
often and nowadays, I fear, you won’t believe her.
Like all her little sisters, this soul is unfaithful – a light seed that gets tangled in your
hair but that the slightest movement frees onto the wind rose40, sweeps her away and up to the
sky, drives her towards the flowers of the forest, towards bouquets of flowers, towards new
faces… innocently distracted (let’s admit it), being distracted even for an instant is too much.
Oblivious and childish, this soul is unworthy.
He, my body, is pure (almost pure). He would be devoted to you, and his heavy weight
could restrain the crazy prisoner. ‘The flesh is faithful…’ – You understood all this so well, so
why? Why don’t you want to?
Don’t thank me, it’s nothing.
*
Tricks
When you’ve dropped your love on your way somewhere, carefully retrace your
unlucky steps back towards the past. Just one crossing-out and you set off again down another
path. (Bah! Why not the same one?)
*
The way to joyfully give up most of your privileges in favour of someone else: take his
most precious things from him.
*
On the burnt plain the magicians bound me with resistance rolled in long supple
grasses. I can breath and sleep, dream, pray and even tend to the salvation of my soul. If I
choose to continue living according to my carnal nature, the indulgent magicians bring fruits
45
and women to my vanquished arms, to my reclining body, to my mouth.
A belated butterfly, something shining from its ephemeral flight has put a glimmer of
madness in my eyes – a glimmer of hope.
Sweet naughty child, you met my eyes, you slid your penknife between my teeth; then,
exploiting my gratitude, you forbade me to make use of it:
‘Free yourself little by little,’ you told me kindly.
I worked through long inclement nights to free just one shoulder, the sweat on my
weary brow scarcely cooled by the wind’s short gusts. My right hand is completely numb as a
result, as if it were dead.
And from flower to flower, along the horizon of trees, my beautiful butterfly (fake
mayfly, most probably eternal) finally liberated from my desire will disappear from view –
while a last summer sun, burning, faded, falls like a dead leaf.
Then you return, you contemplate my tears – and you reproach me sweetly.
‘If only you had cut yourself free from your bindings! Alas, it’s too late now…’
*
Temptation.
‘Don’t forget that you have damned yourself once and for all.’ – a little more, a little less…
‘Not even. There are no degrees of evil. One hits the bottom suddenly, and you feel it.’ I
believe I am in hell, therefore I am there.
*
Eve: Good, evil, nothing but complications! I’m not hungry for an apple. I’m hungry for your
skin.
*
PRISONER OF THE WORD
One is blonde, but beautiful the other:
Choose! Decide!
Leave them to their fun together
Elsewhere. – Hide!
46
The lad is handsome, the girl’s a beauty:
Choose! Decide!
Betroth them both to loves’ own cruelty:
Suffer, die.
The sky is white and beautiful the earth:
Choose! Decide!
Accept your mortal values’ worth
Whither flee? – Whither hide?
No distance between earth and sky
n o t h i n g w e c a n m e a s u r e i t b y
b e t w e e n m y o w n s h a d o w a n d m e
let’s leave the sleepwalker hush-a-bye
at the edge of the roof asleep
sleep
Who wouldn’t awaken if he could!
Choose?
Choose while sleeping. Nothing is gained by choosing.
*
Attitudes.
Where relationships between people, ideas, organs are concerned, nearly the whole
sequence depends on the first contact, the first fortuitous word.
You could imagine two completely different conversations, lives, philosophies,
divergent in every aspect, contradictory as it were, just by changing the entrance onto the
stage, the way the subject is broached, the opening gambit of the game.
*
Human body.
It should be stuck upside down in a vase so that it arranges itself elegantly, so that it
blooms, so that it has four branches, four flowers and the bulb is hidden.
47
*
Precedents
I was walking towards the sea and suddenly stumbled… my knees in the foam, a child (it’s
actually me) falters and laughs with fright. He contemplates the great mass of waves so much
bigger than him, their strength beyond comparison with his own. They pit themselves against
each other, outdo each other, cheat, stand on tiptoes, taking advantage of the unevenness of the
shore, competing for height and speed with no sense of fairness. They climb on each others’
shoulders, trampling the bodies of the fallen. They growl with a hollow sound, reveal their
firm teeth and seize the child by the back of his knees. Panting with rage, they suddenly
appear to be calm, the supreme ruse, and slyly start scooping the sand from beneath his feet…
He exercises his lip in salutary scorn. Alas! The poor child has aged a whole year. Shouldn’t
he be shielded from an oft repeated spectacle that is becoming indecent? For now he watches
his brutish big sisters with a new curiosity as they mount each other like animals, loveless and
cruelly savage. In the eyes of the amazed child the seascape (undeniably chaste) now displays
an image of rutting that his adolescent body suddenly craves. It’s too late to conceal the
spectacle from him – and in any case what good would it do? For him, from this moment, any
emptiness would be peopled by orgies.
I have just heard my laugh which has scarcely changed and I understood that faced
with the sea, with love, with all the forces of the elements (we so willingly surrender!) age,
sex, even individuality cease to be relevant – that maybe separation of souls and bodies that
seek to unite is not possible.
*
Awkward moments
Privileged, I have lately had no sense of sin. But (there’s no getting away with it!) other
people eagerly undertake to give me false scruples and teach me at least the appearance of
remorse – a simulation which make me feel grotesque.
48
*
For love of whoever life has thrown at us, deform ourselves to such an extent that we
will be completely incompatible with the ideal if ever we are presented with it.
*
Hadn’t I addressed the letters that my Master alone understood, that seemed to be
written for him, to the other?
How can I describe my embarrassment? He was utterly seduced by them.
*
Each of you was tugging from his side. It’s I who am surplus to requirements:
organize yourselves.
Puffing up the indifference of my empty breast, I started to sing some much-loved
song, preferring to evade the surveillance of these two violent beings, whose presence is
overly indiscreet, overly simultaneous, with a handsome absent man (memory without
jealousy).
*
You suffer from his rights (from my privileges rather more than from his tyranny).
You suffer from his desire – and maybe from mine more than anything…
Between the two, myself, too willing to share, alas! What should I do? I know how to
lie, for God’s sake! And don’t know how to dissemble.
You have the indiscretion to control yourself better than me, to leave me alone to
compromise myself.
And it’s that, isn’t it my friend, that saddens you the most.
*
Killing a perfectly good friendship because of a love without beauty or vitality – and
which didn’t even lead anywhere! Such is my madness and my punishment.
*
Premature Autumn
The ardour of an impassioned summer had burnt the leaves before the season of their
49
falling.
In our love, before its fulfilment, only dried up feelings fall already.
Yet the sun shines undiminished.
We were finally going to love each other, there, in the clearing.
But our bed of vegetation cried out under the weight of our two bodies. And we fled
the danger:
Alas! Too many dead leaves.
*
Bitternesses
The sea, the only lover whose arms are ever open for us.
*
How easy it is from afar! One peoples the empty seascape with longed-for sails, with
lands and treasures.
One becomes accustomed to successive deceptions, and as if the horizon narrowed
around the traveller, it is fitting that he should be alone in the middle of the ocean.
Where love is concerned, it’s up close that illusion corrupts our senses.
In direct proportion to the distance he puts between himself and his beloved, the
lover’s thoughts circle love’s fantasy, getting smaller and smaller – centre at last, stand still.
And his thoughts see that there is nothing, that they were moving round a void, that
they exist alone.
*
Isn’t all frustrated pleasure pointless?…
In any case, far too literary for my taste!
*
By losing one’s illusions about life in general, one regains respect for one’s own
destiny, for one’s very first disillusions.
*
Making the same gestures, saying the same words with the other, in a spirit of
penitence, and for impure pleasure, secretly, to revive my sin.
All in all, the equivalent of a flagellation – this questionable good and evil.
Let each benefit from it as he might.
50
– Is love really anything other than exalted suffering?
*
Jealousy sleeps at the moment when love should have most doubts : during an
embrace.
*
God: It really is too stupid!
This time I completely give up.
My body frequently humiliated my thought, my body badly constructed out of
graceless mutinies. My thought had occasion to take its revenge in mirrors which it sought
out, lovesick, sadistic – always torturing itself in them.
My thought brings the recalcitrant body to face its reflection and makes it stay there;
affects surprise and pretends not to recognise it at first, criticizes it and judges it – judges the
body unworthy of it – finally sending it to sleep like a guard so that it can escape this sordid
prison. Sometimes it gets caught in the trap if it has to clink glasses and drink something
narcotic together.
One evening, thanks to some sort of disguise, I crossed the threshold unnoticed by the
demon who stunned passing dreams with bludgeon blows…I crossed, drunk and nearly reeling
from all the new, extraordinarily harmonious sensations, a beach of soft sand, the colour of
powdered wings, no sooner touched than tarnished. I had the first misfortune when I turned
and lowered my head. (Yet I had told myself that it’s an immortal sin to look at your own
footprints!) I couldn’t find the shape of my own steps any more. Their distinct traces were
now like a stranger’s, and the oblique line of toes, elongated by the deformed big toe which
had so exasperated me that same morning, was nowhere to be seen.
Mad with a regrettable curiosity, and guided by my customary passion, I peered at the
reflections in the wet sand:
A well suddenly opened and I saw myself at the bottom.
(Oh this care for precision! Shouldn’t we live in the untruth, never checking things –
was this an illusion? Haven’t I said it and repeated it myself?) Anyway, I saw myself and
looked at myself:
And the horror of the unknown took hold of me, horror of this mysterious, much
coveted beauty which, it seemed to me, had pounced on my soul like a bird of prey, which
brought it to its nest, enveloped it entirely and devoured it…
I had a presentiment of disaster…
If I thought only of the ugly flaws of my despised body, quickly and with enough force,
I still could, for certain! halt the collapse of the known universe.
Alas! My thoughts were not strong enough…
51
Almost despairing I made the effort of an Atlas, the motion of his superhuman arch
(only in my case I carried the world on my humped back.)
I woke up.
And touching each of my deformed, hideous and hateful limbs, I declared myself safe
and well.
*
HYMN
All sweetness, son of omnipotence, all tenderness, God of children – ah! May I not
conspire in your divine goodness.
O too merciful, I suffer because I wasn’t able to share your punishment, I suffer even
more that I have no reason to hope that I will see you here again, man among men.
(O! In all eternity couldn’t you have waited two thousand years to come to save my
brothers?)
But if we eventually become worthy of your redemption, won’t you come down among
us, a fitting reward, sacrificing your joy for us instead of your pain?
*
Weaknesses
I am faithful to pain alone – and that very much despite myself.
*
Poet, and organize a creative derangement of the emotions, a methodical derangement.
Poet? Sick man who goes on a diet.
If it’s not about me, why should I care?
52
*
I endorse it. For and against. And wash my hands in my own blood.
May others murder you systematically, link by link, heart after heart, caterpillar! And
may others avenge you.
I am in the fist and in the gash; I recognize myself here, there and everywhere. I will
not intervene.
*
No blinkers, that’s ignoble. And without blinkers I cannot write, at least not otherwise
than I have always done. Like a skittish horse. And if you replace ‘write’ with any other verb
of action my sentence loses none of its assurance.
*
A new verb, a new object – and the same subject. Always the same chain of
complaints.
*
With the least effort I can distinguish three cowards within. One forsakes me, or the
other two, or all three at the same time: ‘I don’t know’. ‘I don’t want any of it.’ ‘I’m ill’.
I even evade my own evasion: ‘Too late. – Tomorrow.’ I go back to sleep.
*
Return to harbour
You got agitated by some of my absurdities (sometimes the most useless ones),
agitated in a hap-hazard way without any particular discernment.
You reproached me for having got up in the middle of the night to watch a train go by
(yes, like cows do!) probably insignificant but I imbued it with a dear presence…You
condemned certain looks (which you alone knew how to see), I don’t know which
connections, and my idolatry (that’s divine vengeance), and my verbal extravagance
(shameful, literary). I acknowledged this anyway, you are right; but it’s my ambition to live
according to truths other than the literal truth. A simple accumulator which takes the
electricity it requires wherever there is an available current – that’s what I am. That’s what I
have to be. I am marvellously indifferent to my passions (interchangeable according to the
most suitable occasion so as to appear voluntary). The spectacular result of them on my soul
engages me beyond all scruples.
53
Looks, connections, idolatry, lies, you make me see them as infantile, and I would
resent you for having betrayed all my childishness if it weren’t perhaps the only way for me to
rid myself of it, to liberate myself from slavery, my Master.
But understand for one moment what it is that always distinguishes you from others:
They – my reasons for living – are but a pretext; you are one of them, sometimes it’s like that.
But sometimes too you are what they will never be, my reason for being.
Come on, let’s exaggerate a little: Them – life. You – death. You know very well
which I prefer and who, fatally, prevails.
V
M. R. M
I played with words, these colours
without danger. Forgiveness but forgiveness
for something else. And it’s so serious, so total
54
that I scarcely dare…Everyday life, this abomination!
I exist and that comprises everything.
Forgive me for existing
[Note to editor: Top left hand corner of photomontage, there is written in white: Here the
torturer behaves as if he’s the victim. But you’re wise to that. Claude.]
Portrait of Mlle X
(Photo if possible…)
Some strands of barbed wire. A solid gate firmly locked. The chain: a chastity belt. Rusted
padlock; security wax melted into the lock. A powerful guard dog with seven flaming mouths,
so well trained that it will savage something to death rather than bark. Don’t wake the
neighbour’s cat!
A wasteland. At the bottom, three gates:
The narrowest one, the gate to paradise and written there: Verboten toegang.
Medium sized, with a well-worn door step, the entrance to purgatory. There is a sign
here too: No thoroughfare.
In the middle, the widest gate, the one to hell. The sign here declares: Leave all hope
behind, gossip-mongers! This threshold is impassable.
Behind the metal hedge, a smiling woman – open-faced, expressing nothing but trust,
courtesy, the most agreeable politeness – gestures to the passers-by: please come in!…
If you dared to look at it up close, this face would be nothing more than a mask; the
body made of straw to the specifications of the most common taste and changing whenever it
wishes; the naked hands, gloves the colour of skin, on which (as evidence of prudence) the
cuffs form extra mittens…
But where has the hostess taken refuge? – There, behind the spy hatch, holes for pupils,
two black dots of mistrust (mathematical dots) are on sentry duty, perpetually on the
defensive.
And right at the back of the gap that’s there for breathing, despite the soul on patrol,
the treacherous pink flash of a gnawed tongue flickers back and forth.
*
Would you be afraid to show your teeth? to dare laugh without restraint, to react to the
point of tears? What good would it serve? Your calm will also betray you : smiling belongs
to women.
55
*
But the green paradise…41
I was hoping that God would fashion a childlike world especially for the rest of us out
of the leftovers of the universe, a varnished toy, shining, in colours without danger, image
expurgated from life to be used by weaklings, innocents, soldiers discharged for spiritual
deficiency, a world where the forces of nature and basic instincts, pain and rotten pleasure and
all feelings would be simple pretexts, decorative designs imitating earth and water, fire and air,
flesh and blood; where longitudes and latitudes would no longer atrociously bruise the
globe…where the un-trussed chicken, the criminal’s wrist, the dog’s neck will no longer bear
blue-edged, reddened, hairless gashes…where the wasp, taking off its corset, will no longer rub
its stripes, nor Saint X his stigmata… I was hoping… but God would not give way on this: in
the way you know, here he even makes use, after a fashion, of animal, vegetable and mineral
by-products, from his over-production, from his factory of the absolute, from every
unknowable thing.
*
What does a well-behaved child dream about apart from the inhumane, the monstrous,
the impossible? The ordinary. The most ordinary life with her adventures, her tales, her
wonders.
But with permission to skim, to skip pages, pages and pages – and to read between the
lines, at her leisure, as she wishes.
*
Two well-behaved children
Let’s try to hold on to our torment42 until dawn…
Now already she transforms herself, moulding herself to the mask of inexpressible
sorrow.
On the brink of sleep let us try to keep hold of it, keep it alive.
I want to deprive myself of joy and use it to nurture our sadness. May it fatten itself on
the least edible words in the dictionary. May it devour me. Hang over me. I want to feel it
weighing down on my shoulders.
For I already trail too many corpses behind me.
Make it grow, little dream killer, make this justifiable reality grow. (This will be the
least of your exploits). You favour what is at the expense of what might be, that is your
profession. So protect life, even if it is more amusing to kill dreams.
But it’s over, you see, no need to think about it any more. You have murdered all the
sorcerers so miraculously that your superfluous blows are reddening your hand.
– Already an obedient child, still amenable. You will find him, dressed in garish
56
colours, surrounded by happy toys; they are innocent, varnished, vulgar, possibly gilded…
You take him in your arms, and holding him up above the crowd you show him the
rich man’s oldest son, his precious toys, antique, a gleaming patina, the sober sumptuousness
of his clothing:
‘Take a good look, little one, that is what you don’t have. And everything else is bad
taste.’43
The well-behaved child put on his grey canvas overall and cleared the table of the
books that covered it, of the agreeable junk of images. An unremarkable surface without
anything questionable on it. Then, in front of a respectable wall, a good quality wall, he shut
himself up in his dreams.
You took an interest in this. The amenable child talked about himself sweetly. Few
thoughts resisted the scrutiny of your logic, the touchstone of an ideal of superhuman beauty. –
When it comes to beauty, little lover of the absolute, are you not an infallible connoisseur?
Still obedient, the child despaired. But suddenly his despair inflames him. He clings
onto what can never be made perfect, he will not let it go.
This naive intoxication made you laugh: ‘you have fallen in love with a poison, a
narcotic. Pain is so overrated, so out of date!…’
(Let’s try to hold on to our torment until dawn…)
I didn’t realize that the dream I foolishly placed under your protection was one of my
last, little killer of love.
Little killer of loves, I had many lovers just a short time ago (all men were my lovers);
you certainly knew how to separate me from them! Your divine skill shook each new
pedestal, and the statue crumbled at our feet, no longer worthy of my worship.
What did it matter? Weren’t you about to replace them all?
You stole away. You smashed the jealous God. (O! Of course you didn’t do it
deliberately, and I forgive you.)
It’s time you lost your power.
Out with it, show me how ridiculous my very obedience is. – What will I become
without it? (does that mean without myself?). Nothing less, nothing more. Thinking to flatter
you, I feigned a large part of my weakness.
I’ve always had, I always will have, a spare tyrant at the bottom of my heart.
Before I knew you were my guardian, I announced the downfall of your angelic rights.
*
Cancelled counsel.
57
Don Juan of philosophies, you sleep with little painted truths (you prefer virgins! Alas,
mistakes and truths resemble each other all the more in that they are often deflowered, though
rarely pubescent…) And you vibrate in search of your mind’s definitive spasm. But your mind
is prudent and dry like a debauched heart that can no longer contract either love or faith.
Diseases remain. Watch out! The truth is woman: syphilis in the centre.
*
Out of modesty.
If you look over my shoulder while I’m working, I will hide my schoolchild’s
notebook under the first novel to hand.
*
Give me some space. You hurt me. You can’t understand that. Let’s work it out. At
a distance. What does your absurd logic have in common with my supreme sensitivity? (I
hate you! I’m confused – with all the changes of pronouns that our personal declension of
silence and our conjugation of the verb ‘to love’ imply.) What can be done, we don’t resemble
each other at all.
Yes, but…
We don’t resemble each other at all: so much the better. One is enough in the house.
‘One smoking in the house is plenty,’ said Bob.
*
Me – to have Prince Charming, how childish! ‘To have’ is not enough. Rather let us choose
‘to be’.
Them – Is he really needed?
You – Made for not getting on with each other!
Consciousness, the carver.
My enthusiasms, my impulses, my little passions were irksome. You censure them, I
give them up. Passions? Not even. Luxury activities most often not justified by the flesh.
Only artifice in me, so little of the primitive. More greed than hunger. It’s true, maybe you
would have told me that hunger must be appeased, but greed requires correction.
Come on then! Divide to murder. Subjective separation. By process of elimination,
what is necessary about me? Certainly not the soul. Nor this desire, nor that regret. I was
promptly right about that. – The material is badly cut. I want it to be straightened up. A
clumsy snip with the scissors. Bah! Let’s even it up on the other side, we’ll find an identical
line (forget about cutting it on the straight!) A stain? We’ll cover it up. Let’s trim it again…
I no longer exist? Perfect! Now nothing can come between us.
The beast is dead!
No: the delicate mechanism of passions is completely broken, completely stopped, but
little as she is the beast has a harder life. Leftover instinct. This body should be pruned,
branch by branch, member by member, call the surgeons.
(If they have to be persuaded, I can give them some precedents, those cakes that the
58
Ferryman’s Dog44 likes best: Cybele’s priests45, and your God himself, plagiarist of the
pagans. ‘Your eyes offend (you?)? Gouge them out. – Your hand? Slice it off.. – The rest?
It’s very simple: castration!…Eh! What, now?…With your soul?…Shameless man! I’ve told
you enough about it, make your own arrangements.’)
After which, oh concentration field46 of noble greed, our disagreement will continue
with increasing strength as long as the odious carcass – which you have madly erected on
yourself like a scarecrow – remains standing. Without wishing to, out of habit, I will act in the
way that irritated you, in the same way. Without wishing to – with no excuse.
Obsolete body and soul.
You, the most generous of men, renounce false connections – or rather (because I
definitely prefer to generalize): Society! It’s all over between us.
Slaughter the beast!
*
Christmas Greeting
An unreserved style – a clear style. A style without authority – a sickly style.
Forgive, and give me, so that I might please you with a forthcoming poem, give me,
lend me, the esoteric qualities of the noun before the alarming frankness of the verb.
Young man with the peremptory thighs,
with the retractile soul,
(velvet cruelties)
and fierce reserve,
perpetual child!
Unyielding woman
with the stern caresses
(brutal laying on of hands,
implicit, and assertive.)
Never confess that loved me,
– prove it rather
and gently disown all your tenderness.
I know too much,
(to believe your lying flesh)
I know the feline reserve of your heart too well.
I’ve been through all the hidden portals.
Whether impelled by the body or soul, would your stolen gestures betray themselves,
contradict themselves? No.
The spirit of compensation balances you.
59
It’s: self-pity
Sometimes, thanks to you, (fake death) I visit hell as a stranger. Magnificent! A fog of
bloodstained smoke: storm or fire?…They were sucking the marrow from human bones (one of
the damned’s little amusements – how tasty!) – Then…waves agitated, aggravated splash-back
of flames, and their spume of sparks. Then…nothing more.
Your peremptory thighs,
your retractile soul
of feline reserve.
Be prudish and be brutal
(At ease, little friend!)
What would happen to us if we had to ask you
for permission to displease you,
Your confession, your retraction
– when you yourself know very well
how to go further.
Eternity
without you, without me, we have only to create it.
We have this moment which forces itself
upon us, without mercy,
which limits us and is incarnate in an omnipotent void
this categoric imperative47.
*
Crisis of virtue.
(Don’t let’s exaggerate anything: as if I was going to take my own word for it!)
*
It’s the river and not the pond.
It’s harder to go beyond the boundaries of happiness than those of suffering. The
attraction of the outing is always the same: you leave to explore what is to be found behind the
wall, beyond the turn in the road, and turning, from torment to torment…
If this is only a progression towards some laughable happiness, what good is it! What
good is it if the mind doesn’t take part in it? And if it does enter the current, the futile current
that produces nothing, if it bathes in the river – who will stop it from sinking there?
You took me in your lakes48, Ether…
It’s another joy! – Static. Ataraxia49 The same suffering that once laid me out has
60
become inconsequential. Will it rise again? I notice it without stopping at it. Hell has no
more secrets for me, no more torments.
I see God in slow motion.
Later I will say what he is all about, just what is behind the great mystery the bearded
Woman presents us with, I’ll reveal his famous trickery.
Later.
I’m waiting ‘til I get the upper hand.
*
Divide and Rule
(Desire pleasure): Love – Chastity : (alma50 calm), o irreconcilable ones, would that
someone other than me might decide between you. I want to grant you equal power in my
country, establish you as sovereign twins of this kingdom: my life and its reactions. But
constitutional princes – full stop. Charming tyrants – or abdicate. What pleases me about each
is what distinguishes him from his brother. In both I prefer excess, being the nearest thing to
the absolute.
*
Equilibrium is our law
I have never known how to sew with a thimble, nor –
tight-rope dancer – make use of a balancing pole.
Circus of love. Modern comfort. Walk without danger on this taut rope – dance
without falling into the void. That horrifying void: indifference. The child draws his bow at
us. Beneath our toes, the thread of our life, as supple as a serpent, but a footpath that is
narrower than our feet, suffers and bends, vibrating with the urge either to snap or attack. Raw
nerve against nerve, any superfluous urges that thwart the main point – to keep upright – must
be subdued. Erection of the entire body. Vertigo…but nets down below are ready to receive
the clumsy. Net of friendship, even, when the need arises, net of hatred…
With you there is always a feeling one can fall back on. With you, because you know
all about love’s substitutes.
Will I complain that I was trapped in exasperation’s net so many times? What body
could endure a similar fall: from this high rope (position superhuman – posture obscene) to the
indifference of reinforced concrete.
Exasperation saved my life.
You know how to retain us. With you, the string of the famous bow (with you?…I am
assured that it is still thus!) the string is composed of several threads.
*
61
Monday 2 February: Purification51.
(Love? – artwork on a slate. Swedish gymnastics. Come on! It’s time to close these
brackets.)
*
End of year accounts.
Received and due, white columns. But you, to calm me down: ‘Our budget is
balanced.’ No, now I can see red figures, lining up accusingly – my debt.
What good is Christmas?
I go to you with empty hands (toys that move). But you: ‘What a child likes more than
any other present is a live animal with unpredictable grimaces, surprise movements and which
can be broken in a few rounds.’ Maybe, if you wanted…
If I were to offer no resistance. Pointless resolution. You know very well that I will
always escape you. My regrets quickly turn into malice. An intonation, an adjective, are
enough to make me, versatile and monotonous, go from trust, from gentleness, from docility,
to obstinacy, to ‘as for me’, to an anonymous stare. Deaf, mute, blind, I wander around and,
like a coward, leave you burdened by a dead weight.
How everyday my soul is! I find myself wearisome, and only stick with myself for my
lapses, with my bad life for its worst habits. A truly illicit union. And you, just to say
something: ‘Isn’t every day a feast day?’
Tomorrow. From tomorrow make the most irreplaceable… Yes, I know that song. –
However feast days, no less than the everyday, have secular traditions. They differ only in
their frequency. Fever, intermittent madness, madness none the less. If you flee in a circle
aren’t you pursuing yourself? How can you escape perpetually returning, from the shabby
return of even our own heroics?
On the 24 December of a future year, on some unknown date, in a thousand years time
beneath a different face, will I still, will I still have to go again and again to you, emptyhanded?
*
I would like:
To be sufficiently similar to you never to shock you, displease you, argue with you, ask
for your pardon – or mercy.
To be sufficiently different from you (and from me), vary enough, that you would
recognize yourself in this man, from afar and from on high, ridicule without repercussions.
I would like to mean little to you yet make you smile like you know who, who doesn’t
know it.
I would like to amuse you neither more nor less than the unexpected negative,
dictionaries, a fish out of water, the decadent morals of mechanical animals, the street where
62
everything happens, where everything goes by, where nothing knows you.
I would like to merit being observed by you with as much curiosity, as much
detachment, as the gods, as the dolls of the human soul.
I would like nothing to distinguish me from the things you are indifferent to…
For the rules of the social game (which I would like to change) are such that I never
once win a hand against the rest of the world, and never win against you, against us – against
the best of myself – without cheating.
I would like… I want.
But the other is already waking up: I am alive, alas! I am ill, I am demanding (of you,
not myself any more), I am thirsty for everything that isn’t within arm’s reach. At the edges of
the past I wallow in pointless recrimination and it keeps me away from not only wanting, and
choosing, but (in consequence) accepting your help. I push myself to the limit, I finally realize
it and for want of anyone better complain about me to myself: I believe I’ve only got myself to
blame.
But it’s you who endure it, listen to it, see it when you have to (I show it to you).
Once more, you have read it, you are reading it, you will correct the mistakes I make in
French.
When it comes down to it, everything ends up on your shoulders.
63
VI
X.Y.Z
Never drop the shadow for the prey52
SINGULAR PLURAL
Us.
‘Nothing can separate us.’
Declarations of love: sincere lies! (If you don’t agree to play the fool every now and
again, as often as I want you to, give up all thoughts of marrying stamens and thorns. The
magic rose will be for others!…)
In the final reckoning we are forced to rely on the unknown, with a great algebraic X.
*
Pink magic.
Absolute egoism is a safety device. I will often return to it. But with these games I
intend to lead lovers into treacherous harmonies, to the perilous pact of those who go about in
pairs.
*
Love. The act itself is the creation of the flesh – flash of heat, a star so brief there’s no
time to formulate a wish, we’re scarcely sure we even glimpsed it – but everything that
engenders it, everything it implies, all the good old theatre wires, are the creation of the mind.
The actor can make use of his partner, better: his enemy, as of himself; and it will be
reciprocated.
64
*
But as soon as they have become one, in order to carry on the struggle and to be able to
carry on provoking each other, they will have to cheat, dream up some accomplices for
themselves. Beyond complete narcissism, the couple split into two. We come out of our
splendid isolation, lend ourselves to the world. My lover will no longer be the subject of my
drama, he will be my collaborator. For the hero, for the heroine and for their conjunction, we
will have to go down on the street and look for role models. Go separately. Masked. Make a
new skin every night,53 and a new landscape. This is the price of our duels.
Leave our defeats behind. Imitate, pretend to be the first one who comes along that
pleases you and suits me, reconstitute the diamond of a look, the charm of these passers-by. I
am one, you are the other. Or the opposite. Our desires meet. It’s hard enough just to
disentangle them.
*
Are we there? Armed with things unknown, with false situations, with deceitful words
and gestures, we will finally unsheathe our tongue from its kiss. Untie to tie once more the
mortal embrace.
The art of infidelity: in you, whatever he might be, Prince Charming will be my easy
prey. Everything depends on your artifice and the force of my desire.
*
I am copying out this exercise (that my partner wrote in the required time and my own
hand) to show how we seek to define our characters. It stands to reason that according to the
mood of the moment, humanly indicated by our own physiology, the most abstract stance can
and should be altered. Every living being – Russian doll, nest of tables – is expected to contain
all the others. The dominant and sensitive aspects of the character remain. It’s only after a
large number of exercises (whose value is completely relative like the following), it’s only
when we resign ourselves to necessary partialities, that we can allow our masks’ moulds to set.
To clarify the still uncreated role we can draw on all sorts of pretexts: society games, absurd
investigations54…
Undoubtedly in this case a more vulgar subject would have better served as an
example. I opened another drawer…No. It was too much to ask of me.
*
Let us roughly establish the reactions, even the least profound, of some of them to the
announcement, exterior for some, interior for the majority, that God is in the anti-chamber,
that he is requesting them to give the most honest account of themselves. We will see their
attitudes in many other regards more clearly as a result.
*
Paul: I’m going. (Evading himself so as not to become emotional): It had to be seen. It was a
one-off. (Demeaning himself deliberately, for fear of being his own dupe): It’s someone worth
65
cultivating… etc…
Egon (in a blank voice): I’ve already told you that I won’t be there for anybody.
Henri: Was it only because he wanted to have me that he put himself out? But it’s me that
will have him. Is this gentleman looking straight at me? Fine. I can take it.
*
Genica: Let him come in. I’ll receive him with pleasure. He is most obliging. My very best
friend. But what the devil is his name?
Jacques: Let’s admit him. And what then? Couldn’t he have come straight in without making
so much fuss?
*
Edouard: This is bad timing! What’s he going to think of me: I was just dreaming about him…
Georges: He’s too big! He’s too near! He’s too loud! I’d be more use to him if he disturbed
me less, if he backed off a little.
*
Eric: The clumsy oaf! He’s flunked his entrance. Bring on the next act.
Reutler: They should put him in a straight-jacket.
*
Charles: So be it. Man to man, we’ll always understand each other. I’m ready. But we have
nothing to say to each other.
Erich: Does he dare come to my house? I wouldn’t mind telling him exactly what I think of
him.
*
Oscar:55 His place is not in life but in art. Will you tell that person I am expecting him in my
next book.
Bruce: Formless thing! Let me hold up a mirror and a song. Beauty is better than any gods.
*
Jim: Never felt that. It’s queer!
Alan: I never!…(laughing)
*
Georges: He’s in my skin. It’s an old acquaintance.
Jack (he trembles and weeps) : I have knocked him out many a time. I am afraid.
66
*
Arthur: If he presents himself under a false name again, you’ll tell him I don’t give a damn
about him.
Paul (on his knees – and before what, Lord!) : Here I am. I was waiting for Thee.
*
Andre: Bolt the door. If anyone lets the unknown give us the slip I’ll bump him off.
Robert: You’re bluffing, your Unknown, still an underling. If only he’d be polite at least; if
he’d just decapitate himself before entering, and put the other sex, virgin too, between his legs.
– A fine gesture, indeed, and one which would touch us.
*
Swann: Hand me my gloves, will you? Now let him in.
Mitchell: I am busy. He can wait. (He’s got all the time in the world to wait)
*
Robert: He has so much to do, don’t let him wait.
Ruprecht (Looking at his watch) : It’s fine. He’s punctual.
Fernand: He’s turned up at just the right moment. Of course. One always has to put oneself
out for that animal. Anyway…he’ll have to take me as I am.
*
Donald: He never wants to see me. It’s just one of his tricks.
Jack: He cannot be with you all of the time in the state you are in. He’s never all there with
us. But we must be thankful for small mercies.
*
le R.P.B56….:No. He asks too much. Let him try next door. I already gave him something
yesterday.
l’eleve R.M…: Let’s bet that he speaks to me in Hebrew. I’m going to get an interpreter.
*
Andre: Is this the same man? I don’t recognise him…
Jean: He’s already in the square. He couldn’t be any nearer.
*
Bob: I don’t need him. He’d better mind his own business as I do mine. (And when Bob starts
speaking French: I don’t know what to do about that kind of thing. I wish it would just get
lost!)
67
Me: I don’t eat this kind of God57. It’s not him I’m waiting for, it’s the Other. (God leaves. I
felt him leaving…) – Hang on! Get him back. I wasn’t ready to receive him, I am not worthy
of him. If only he would come back: I love him.
You: It’s for Claude. It would make him happy and I am not keen on it.
*
This exercise is worth my while as long as it’s useful to us. But afterwards…
‘God’ is elastic. Define your terms. (‘Holy Spirit’ isn’t appropriate either.) Each gives
the name ‘God’ to whatever seems good to him and will never admit what it is, what futility.
(I am using this word quickly while my angel is elsewhere. He would have hidden it from me.
If I had glimpsed it despite him, I wouldn’t have been able to grab it. He’d have confiscated it
from me).
*
EXERCISE ON TWO NOTES
Obscene curiosities.
P – I like this style of transparent card: the soul through the body.58 They’d be worth
collecting.
*
Watertight bulkheads.
E – What I find most admirable about the Passion is not what you believe. I would sacrifice
myself willingly for men, yes, for all men – but kiss this one, that one, like a brother? Never!
I’d get myself properly crucified for them, so long as none of them ever laid a finger on my
skin.
*
E – In his place I wouldn’t have had to look far for my Judas. You are never so thoroughly
betrayed as by yourself.59
*
E – For those who value only mental, spiritual things, for a man attached to his contempt for
the body, the tour de force is not to sleep with the leper man but to greet the pharisee.
*
The relative kingdom.
E – My like? Neither conceived nor conceivable. A third must always be sacrificed for the
monster analogy to be worth anything. We’re only allies, only comrades through opposition –
68
against others.
As soon as you isolate it, the species (in the concrete kingdom or the abstract
kingdom), generalisation, disintegrates; the Homeland breaks up into parishes; Paris into
arrondissements (russian doll); alone at last, the couple are flung apart,60 I separate from you,
the Aryan male himself renounces his solidarity with the Aryan female.
There are as many ways of being as there are stars; I wouldn’t know what more to
say… Even if there were so much in each star (is it my fault if the absolute is beyond
comprehension?) it will not make one more.
*
P – Meeting on a young girl’s breast, on a cream tart. Concordance of choice doesn’t imply
concordance of tastes. Do we know what alien intentions brought our hands to touch each
other from so far away? – Similitudes, sympathy? – Miracle? No: coincidence.
E – If paths cross, it’s because they don’t run alongside each other. Presumption of
divergences61. Watch out for shifting railway points!
*
Confession.
E – My childhood game. I preferred to be the horse rather than the coachman – especially
when the friend who supervised our harnessing had a good whip, and knew how to use it.
*
Gott mit uns.
E – What idiocy! Ah! Rather: Gott mit mir – wonderful pride. However, since I’ve known you,
‘Gott mit uns’ seems sublime to me. For one must not forget that ‘we’ can mean a couple –
that two-headed monster.
*
The best way to keep your god near you: crucify him. The pagans who used to collect gods
pinned Jesus to the cross like a rare butterfly.
*
Idyll.
P – …to be in a state of legitimate attack62
E – …following the shipwreck, cling to a floating mine.
*
(P.) … curious about a soul he experiences as alien and available, curious, and by definition,
affable. ‘I am not so polite by nature that I can be nothing but polite. So I force myself – and
overstep the mark.’
69
*
P – I am woman. Compassion puts me in the mood for consoling: making love. But since I
am, after all, a man, and quick to attack, beware: this sort of thing doesn’t happen without
some brutality involved!
*
Tomorrows.
E – Are you insulting me?
P – No, quite the opposite. I wouldn’t have used that word yesterday. We weren’t intimate
enough. And I would never allow myself to use it with one of your compatriots. The value of
the word ‘boche’ is purely erotic.
*
Syncopation.63
From the same to the same (with tenderness):
God! How ugly you are!
*
Nothing but the flesh…
E – Do you doubt my modesty?
P – No: I know about safety catches.
E – If you see me hesitating at the edge of pleasure, come and help me: remind me that I love
you.
P – Love puts the least naive man in such a state of mind that he asks his hangman for help.
E – Handsome? Me? – Yes: as if to say a handsome syphilis.
*
Out of respect for humanity.
E – Due to supressing my passions I’ve contracted a dilation of the heart. I demand urinals on
all public highways.
*
Minima buys at the Minimum.
E – How to be happy?
P – (a little love?…) You can’t fool me: imitation pearls!
E – Perfect imitation. Can you tell? Anyway it’s more sensible: admit that you want to sell
them, give them away, that you’ll let them be taken or lose them…Say thank you. No? You
are wrong. Do you want to be loved at the usual rate? Frenchman! Your heart’s making you
70
late. In our times you need to know how to be happy on the cheap.
*
P – Find a common denominator in words, things and people (in love). With one throw of a
stone hit as many things as possible.
E – If you try to hold too many things at once your grip will fail64.
*
E – Learn how to set vampires to bleed people. But if they haven’t had their fill they’ll be hard
to remove.
*
A proposal of marriage:
P – I will take the place of variously girthed snakes. My torso will replace the ones that fill
your arms in an embrace. My thighs will obey you, well cast reptiles; once more will you have
those monstrous swallowers of mice; you shall have my neck, my ankles, my wrists; and my
fingers, at your whim, will be grass snakes or common vipers.
Don’t concern yourself with formalities: I’ll take care of those. Heaven is short of
wings; and God no longer requires the consent of the mother land to facilitate the union of
bodies and souls.
*
Anticipation.
P – It was enough just to trace a line in chalk: the little chicken followed, fascinated… frontiers
of good and evil, of France and Navarre, levelled in the macabre dance, erased by the brutal
stamping of the human race, I hope you will stop making such a strong impression on people. –
I take the blame: talking of you makes us late.
*
Last wish.
P – Her well had gained a bad reputation, but because she wanted us to continue visiting her,
she covered the entrance to it with branches and leaves..
Be assured that I seek not Truth; but if by misadventure I fall into her trap, may she
receive me naked, flesh well-upholstered to absorb the shock.
*
Touch wood, impotent’s precaution.
P – Provided that it’s properly tempered and penetrates your flesh deeply, I’d like to be on the
blade’s side.
*
71
E – German loyalty, German strength, German venom…only the sting of the national wasp is
fatal (where you live bees have stoppered swords!65)
I deliver myself unto you disarmed – for fear of being defeated with my own weapons.
*
Intoxicated.
P – I need: your sting, stupidity, my snake bite, discord and everyday malice. We can’t
run out of these we do them so well. Our equilibrium is an amalgam of poisons. Sleep seeks
to deceive us..(wait, my sentence isn’t finished)…I’d sooner suck a bee’s sting than give in.
*
Love cheat66, who’s being deceived?
P – A hen takes our vulgar trickeries under her wing and agrees to blend in the same
tenderness, or the same irony, bantams, ducks and shellfish – porcelain, heart of stone, dense
wood, seedless gold, April fool, Easter sweets, and the entire inventory of trompe-l’oeil…
Why won’t this viper sit on my dove’s eggs lovingly? If only to eat them cooked to
perfection.
*
Bad goalkeeper: I’m only good in attack. It would be most unwise to entrust me with
the defence of a body – above all my own.
The hereditary enemy: on the other hand you would defend my country very well.
*
Politeness.
E – …be just as generous in accepting what is given to you.
*
Variation on a well-known theme.
P – Place where snakes converge, I love to hear you advocating devolution – but watch out for
your frontiers!
*
Metropolitan.
P – We obviously live on the imaginary line that goes from EUROPE to CONCORD.
*
Alarm bells.
P – …your skin colour of sand…
72
E – Colour of quicksand where people get stuck…Come on don’t be frightened: I’m not saying
it to tempt you.
P – Too soon: You fired with no plausible motive.
*
The happy man.
E – You don’t have the right to insult me like this; you must earn it.
P – Give me some credit, I always win. The most cautious usurer lends me money on a lottery
ticket.
*
Explanatory note.
P – …General events act against me (particular ones work in my favour): war, volcanic
eruptions, Spanish flu, Military service, etc…But what am I talking about? I’m still alive.
Even earthquakes wish me well – like opportune bumps of the vehicle sustaining my pleasure,
maybe one day – who knows? – making it last forever…
The adversary – See Messina and die…what’s keeping you from registering our
luggage?
*
Greed67.
(P.) Nature was never enough for him, he always had to extend it in some way. He’d have to
have: the hermaphrodite, the threesome, the four-leaf clover, the five-legged calf, the star with
six points, the night of seven days, the eighth heaven – eight deadly sins – , the nine hour day,
the cat o’ten tails, the decimal-plus-one system, the worker at the twelfth,68 thirteen strikes at
midnight – and make love at six.
*
The practical man.
P – Only make use of troubles, disgusting things, ruptures…I make my desires happen. Can you
ever have too many?
E – You’re showing off.
P – Only transmute our disappointments.
E – Alchemist, by what right do you sublimate69 me?
P – By no right at all. I don’t go in for that effect.
*
Don’t fidget!
P – You’d like to move away from the fire – without looking as if you were. No: flee
courageously! You won’t escape me through the sentimental window, even if you stitch our
sheets together. My flesh overflows onto my soul, onto my life. Everything that touches me is
infused with it. Even my shadow is made of it, and the traces my feet leave on the ground, that
73
my lips leave in the sky. The prey makes its mark. – Why let me go for a shadow as solid as
myself?
*
Automatic revolver.
E – Did you see that one too? Have a good look, take in every detail, don’t hold back on my
account!…
P – I assure you that it’s of no consequence.
E – I know. Nervous twitch. When you make love to them it will be the same song.
*
The husband turns a blind eye.
E – I have a dentist’s appointment (or: My country needs me – or: I’ve run out of cigarettes) I
hope my absence won’t inconvenience you too much? I can send someone to take my place.
*
Life in the garrison.
(E.) Between two religions, such boredom, such inactivity! Demobilized, arms dangling, the
mystics drag their sheathed spurs over the public promenade, imperialism without a job,
barracks-sick…
God offers them a lovely uniform, intrigue, great big horses, daily stultification…
Insulted, furious, the pure ones and the deserters, receive their souls every morning on
the end of a boot, – cursing their own selves if no-one else is around, swearing at the reveille
instead of their own persons.
It’s very important to keep the heart busy during the dead-season.
*
But
I will lighten your load, volcano: I’ll feed myself with your lava.
P – I’ve quashed your enemies, serpent! I’ll have to suck out your venom like the milk of a
reservist mother, of a thoroughbred bitch. For if your breasts became heavy, sterilely inflated
with war-blood, with the sperm of hatred – in peace, in love, I would never see your pure form
again…
From now on who could tempt us, reviving the paradises we abandoned, the
abandonments we lost? Faded with the beauty of the serpent as far back as the memory of our
youth…
Why return to the gardens of Eden at all without the inventor of sin (man will never
come up with it alone), without the thrill of the risk and no hope of recividism?
Man will never come up with it alone…
Withered adult, child lamenting the belly of its mother, the poet still calling to his
muse, the dreamer to his guardian angel, Saul to his seven handsome demons, the painter to
his model, and without a compliant body the lover wouldn’t know how to invent new
74
positions.
*
Here, Snake! (I whistle.)
P – If it’s really the demon’s fault that we’re lost, he alone can save us. One is only ever cured
of an illness by the same woman.
*
I tame the figure seven.
P – When Satan is the animal familiar, the tempter de-luxe, – lap dog, pocket dog – no longer of
Eve but of Man:
– Down, serpent! Down! Be a chaste dog, chaste…Good. And now beg.
Break him in slowly.
Private sin, domestic demon, come: I no longer fear you.
**
Paris ham
E – It’s not about those who consider their navel the centre of the world (a weakness that only
oppresses oneself). It’s about those who consider the world to be the centre of their gravity
and treat it accordingly – that is: with shameful indifference.
But can the sphere be left to its own rotations? Other than by whip-lash, how can the
earth be made to spin?…
Would I dare judge (Take Care: Dangerous Bend) those who – maybe to fill their own
purses – acquit me of crimes horrible to premeditate, for the execution of which an admirable
enlargement of the heart and fists is humanly necessary.
Let he who knew how to sin utter the first insult. If pig there is it’s a show pig. So be
it. May they take Europe for their navel, may they mix up the universe and their stomach. But
let this stomach be a cared-for stomach, the muscular lyre of an athlete, the flesh and skin of a
whore.
*
Omissions
E – There are people who would make you sick with their ugliness.
P – Don’t challenge me: I’d end up strangling you. When it comes down to it, you have a very
slender neck. It could be gripped in a flash..
**
75
It’s infuriating that one can only offer what one has, what one is70.
But…
We cover our faces with masks then cover them again, put on make-up, then make
them up again, maybe only exaggerating the resemblance to, only accentuating the
imperfections of, the hidden face…it’s a waste of time.
Yet we wear ourselves out with these pointless games: it would be better to outbid
everyone instead!
Elsewhere too make up is a must.
VAGUE DESIRES
Before reading this page, make this wish with me: for words with double meanings71.
A writer can only play heads or tails with words, as you do in secret with your most sacred
feelings and principles.
*
Nineteenth Century – have a heart.
Twentieth Century – have the stomach.
*
Realism.
The mother was so unappetizing that the child was offered an aperitif before being
served with the breast.
*
Romanticism.
The flea – that vampire.
*
Surrealism
The vampire, that flea….
*
Symbolisms.
(The day before yesterday): Get out of my sunlight72. (Yesterday): Get out of my
consciousness.
*
76
Suspect.
…would I have a sense of the ridiculous? Am I French without knowing it? Me – born
of an unknown country.
*
Courage!
Attack my favourite values first, these are the most resilient. And the new order?
Nature, abhorring a vacuum, provides for it fittingly, automatically and according to laws
which it’s good to know about. Hit a head, a head appears. I’ll say it again, it’s about aiming
high.
It’s true, I should have thought first: you only throw something out to put something
better in its place. Will this set a false precedent?
*
Another kind of courage.
The courage to be repulsive. Everyone should have been through it, in any case
everyone will have to go through it. Our cowardice doesn’t change anything about that.
*
Modesty.
Virgin and martyr? The highest degree of idiocy. Maybe being a martyr’s not too
bad…it could have its charm. But virgin!
*
Obsession.
– A virgin at ninety? No. But doubtlessly she masturbates normally, without any
curious objects or hygienic precautions. For she is one of those women who, once married,
close their eyes and do what they call their duty and get pregnant every time.
*
From all sides.
The traces left by man’s activities are sometimes touchingly stupid, sometimes
astonishingly wicked – depending on whether you’re in the mood to cry with rage or
tenderness. But no-one should cry: everyone should laugh!
*
Laziness: The Sultan replaces his Great Eunuch with a Great Deflowerer.
*
He has taken the part (or his part) of virtue.
77
– The end is nigh.
*
Madrigal.
He performed an exemplary baptism.
What young girls dream of.
– Well yes! You’re always telling me off! I won’t hold anything else against you since
it’s for my own pleasure (I mean it’s for my own good!).
*
Mutual concessions.
On evening he beats his wife. The following evening she beats her husband.
*
Apteryx73 victory.
The lizard’s tail is fragile…But reviving the custom of the superhuman (of his sixth
sense) the Angel leaves his wings behind in the hands of Madame Putiphar. At your
marks…the bird flies off.
It’s obvious! – Only the mind matters.
Go ahead, flay me: I won’t feel any the worse for it.
*
A sentimental counsellor.
The archer has no more arrows in his quiver. Nevertheless, he pulls back the string, he
sets the trap. And each time his greyhounds have flushed out, run after, hunted down the
beast, he turns towards us, turns to man for help.
But you cross your arms, sniggering:
‘Rascal! Are you still hunting chickens – at your age! And are you still using such an
unreliable implement in this didactic century? – Love, if you must prey on something, learn
how to kill it outright with words.’
*
Daphnis74 or the weak-minded.
I have my desire at the tip of my tongue; but (I have such horrible memories) I’ll never
go back to the traditional act.
*
Devalue the race.
78
Men have tested the theory of inflation on their own flesh…too many children on the
exchange market. – The deluxe specimens are mine!
Soon to be released.
Having resolved to fall in love, I tried out diminutives of the eligible names, as a
pregnant woman gets a first name ready at the same time as the unknown prisoner’s layette.
But it’s double the work, (you have to think of everything) boy or a girl?
*
Harlequin.
I was told so often that I was heartless that I ended up accepting it.
*
A double-bottomed heart for illusionists.
*
If they measure themselves against someone they cheat – stretching themselves and
standing on tip-toes.
*
The fox.
It was no use kissing him on the mouth, he always moved my head away: ‘It’s so that I
can see you better, my child.’
*
Let them have the last word. Avoid the resentment of discarded friends. I know some
who willingly set themselves up on the same landing. You’ll often get their news.
*
The passion of the plausible.
So that people will believe me, I don’t say what is true – but what is plausible.
*
Reserves.
Beauty, beauty, the promise of happiness…Come on! You are far too discreet, too well
brought up, too prudent, to make more than an allusion to the happiness a person might expect
from you.
– Beauty, promise of torment!
79
*
Indefinite Perfect.
There are some people for whom the only ideal is to have a life that can be put in any
hands.
*
Norman.
How would I feed a passion other than that for Good and Evil when my own soil
creates webbed roots for the apple trees. My snake would not know which Eve to devote
himself to among so many sour apples.
*
The mystery of this man: PUBLIC DANGER
Do not allow CHILDREN to play with the LOCK.
*
Slip of the tongue.
Through some illusion of my erring flesh.
*
Piano lesson.
– I am completely inexperienced where love is concerned: I’m terrified of being
clumsy…
– I prefer it like that. I’ve known some that started so badly!
– …
– Ah? Too bad! Even on your own you can get into some bad habits.
*
Man of the desert.
Youth is his target against nature. He would get himself sucked by the sun to migrate
to a world still molten.
*
Indirect method (to lead a young protestant to confession75).
‘Intermediaries are indispensable. – Even for the things of this world. You don’t speak
the language of God well enough to dispense with an interpreter. There would be some
misunderstandings between you and your creator. – And above all don’t trust God, my child:
(consult your Holy Bible). He has never honoured professional secrets.
*
80
Sin with forethought.
– Do you shriek when you masturbate?
– No Father, I pray…
*
One of Narcissus’ heresies.
– Thanks!…And this isn’t the first happiness I owe you.
*
We are only ever shown the hero’s point of view. But what if I take a minor player’s
side?
*
Magic-City.
They make such a distinction between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ – imbeciles! May there
soon be a ‘feminism’ for cinedes.76
*
Origin of the blue chins.
Soiled glacier, sheets, the purity of the earth defiled…turbulent hours. Our hair became
so entangled that night, that in the morning – to end it – we had to have our heads shaved.
*
Sapho.
– I’m going to buy myself some socks. – Do you really wear socks? – No (what are they
called?)…stockings. It’s just a way of speaking really.
…Instinctively I looked for the buttons of my ‘fly’ on the right (men’s side), but the
tailor (you have to tell them everything!) had sewed them on the left for me.
*
Mea culpa.
Write for a minority, the poet’s fruitless work, stupid, vain yet somehow noble. But,
over sensitive victim, you mustn’t let yourself get walled in by the entourage77, forced to write
against a minority.
*
Purity is composed of all the stains, as white is of all the colours. But if just one is
missing, motivation falters, harmony breaks down, the mayonnaise turns. Never hold back on
green to the detriment of red, the sky to the detriment of blood, luxury and pride in unequal
doses.
81
Athlete full of vice. Specializing his soul, stretching himself out on a ray of the
spectrum, is what they call ‘turning out badly’ in angel slang.
*
A proposition for Lent: everyone who wears a mask the rest of the year should come
out bare-faced, unrecognisable.
*
Open up – and someone will knock78.
For those who have not been satisfied with their role on earth, God establishes a review
panel:
I provide the theatre, you choose your stage sets, your adventures, your character, your
sex, your make-up…but the false accents you’ll have used on stage will be reproduced
eternally; and if you’ve kept your personality at bay, he’ll let you have it back. Never having
known how to let yourself be moved by your soul, you will never know how to touch it either.
Strangers to yourselves, ridiculously followed or preceded by a marionette four regulation
steps away…
Who gives nothing has nothing.
I am the first to acknowledge my mistakes: if you embody your ideal I’ll back you up.
But what good is that to you? Didn’t you have it already?
*
An indeterminate type.
There are people who morally speaking live from day to day. They follow the course
of change in newspapers. If the price of Mocha dips they love coffee, they force themselves to
drink it. They show their paw, sometimes covered in flour79, sometimes in coal, reveal their
business sense, their sense of what is artistic, based on what they take to be the flavour of the
day. They seek angora angels, alley angels – if ‘angel’ is profitable80.
But faced with unlabelled products they become completely disorientated…a sticker is
obligatory.
*
This verbal debauchery…These are their tri-coloured masses.
*
Other temperament, other moral values81.
‘Open your mouth and shut your eyes!’82 This is how adults became accustomed to
perverting the young. Whose fault is it then if, after that, their women are weak, gossipy, and
lacking in perception?
With me and most children the expression of desire is mouth shut and eyes wide open.
This shouldn’t be abused. Mute. Unisensual. A variety of infirmities. The example is not well
chosen!
82
*
Looking through the hole of the navel:
It isn’t only his own that the child makes the centre of the world. It doesn’t matter
what kernel keeps his flesh together. Mystery is the lock at which an eye, for want of anything
better, serves as a master key.
Thus:
– Mummy! Why are the boats in the water, Mummy?
But the mother is elsewhere, out of the water, out of the boats, out of herself. The
decentralization of her mind is complete. A tough social life has forced her to replace the
‘whys’ with as many peremptory ‘becauses’ as ‘so thats’. She says (perhaps surprised by the
colour of the sky…)
– Because it’s lovely weather.
Not arguing or giving up (for he realizes that he has received no reply) the child
repeats:
– Why are the boats in the water?
*
‘You push, Doctor.83 I’m getting ready.’
We must deliver ourselves bound hand and foot. There’s no better way. Have we got
the time, or the means, to check? We are forced to by the action and interminable interrogation
of actors.
So many contradictory statements, lies, denials – and above all, surprising silences. But
what good does it do to defend yourself? Attack is much more expedient. In his duel with
Valentine the role assigned to Mephistopheles is an outdated role. Only Faust will have to
face God’s judgement.
Nothing more baffling than proof. Figures are a lure. Everyone knows some kind of
trick. They get pulled out, pushed around, rounded off. It’s so easily arranged: One player
works with Moscow time, the other with the time in New York – and the round is played.
Figures tell us nothing for they have no personality. Nothing in this world is as
peremptory as the shape of a talking mouth confirmed by an expression…insults will teach us
more than the most sincere statistics which can be corrupted by a simple printing error.
Women, France, your happiness depends on the worth of your senses, of your
psychology. The most petty details (however humiliating!) will reveal more about a being than
his brilliant feats because they are more usually overlooked. – He sharpens a pencil; he wipes
his nose; he sleeps; he has a fever…(he’s giving himself away). After a thorough etcetera, if
the man has proved charming, open your legs and shut your eyes. It’s a marriage of
convenience.
*
83
Other ways of saying it:
Man will have eternal youth sooner than immortality. He’ll protect himself from
decrepitude faster than from a pin prick. ‘The accident’ too will take on a singular
significance, and whatever one does (unless one has become ferociously ‘protectionist’), the
accident will inexplicably increase.
*
Solidarity.
Our life today is subject to so much administration, depends on such a large number of
transactions and such a crowd of beings that we will be insanely lucky if we don’t find a
murderer.
*
In any human enterprise the few, rare happy beings are given pride of place,
illuminated, their qualities greatly exaggerated. These are the big jackpots to make us get
some lottery tickets.
*
Divided up.
In our times, when everything is based on the installment plan, even happiness, where
politics, money, love, are articles of faith, so much credulity is squandered in the course of the
week that there’s nothing left for bank holidays.
*
Gender confusion.
Politics and the erotic are reduced to the vocabulary of libertinage. Here are our relaxed
jack-of-all-trades: happy to discredit at one and the same time the good actions of bosses, their
efforts towards conciliation, and the kiss on the mouth. Break it up, gentlemen, break it up!
*
Revolving Table84 (dream)
Seated around the green baize, diplomats, serious as children, sucking their pens,
suckling their style, are drawing up the Treaty of Versailles in automatic writing. (Their noble
sincerity will be highly praised). A gust of ghosts: pigeon flies,85 prison flies, nations fly86…so
wise are they that they would hear me talking!
Among them however are a some with ugly habits who let themselves go in the
dangerous onanism of literary corrections.
Others have such rapid imaginations that the sylph leaves them, gasping, at the first
revolution; their hand quite exhausted…having thrown off their clothes, their weapons, then
their limbs, one by one, they arrive naked – what do I mean, naked? very slender,87 having no
form and no soul at the post of glory, torment or happiness.
84
But I have seen – could one believe that vanity of honour would be capable of usurping
the place of basic instincts in this respect – I have seen the great German leader, short on
dreams, copying from his French neighbour. A bit of luck for the Prussian that he himself was
copying from his German88 neighbour! Bent over their right finger nail89, beyond Good and
Evil, soon they all looked like conspirators to me – and the table revolved with the needles of
time, or rather space…But Who were they all copying? Whence the initial impulse? I am lost
in this.
At length their outstretched arms impel their papers, folded like accordions90, towards
the centre where the invisible arbitrator gathers them up. Invisible to me, god incarnate for
some, a judge with his head dressed red as shame, a scarecrow made of straw, man or destiny
masked, providence’s eyelids sealed with hymen membrane, a virgin to be violated, etc., for
others. Gathers them up and shuffles them in his old bowler hat. And now, just like in
innocent games, the lots are drawn to see who,who,who will be eaten91.
*
All paths would throw their thorny lasso over me, would crush me between their walls,
would pinch me to death there, in their hinges. If their smiling jaws meet on the
horizon..simple effect of perspective.
(Illusion and truth are twin children who have swapped their pink and blue ribbons so
often that by naming them according to their colour I would get them teased, even if I
happened to be right.)
Close your arms, paths! on others or on the void. You will have wasted your time
stretching out, I won’t let myself be snapped in traps. I will stay at the crossroads, my arms
like the cross. My body as signpost. Feet firmly planted against the temptation to desert my
post, to follow the first passer-by. Conscious of distances, boundaries, churches…
Perhaps, as a reward for my patience, a lost angel will ask me the way?
*
Stormy nights, If you want to stay on the bridge of a ship (a bucking horse trying to
unsaddle us) you have to secure yourself firmly to some frontier post.
85
VII
H.U.M
Before renouncing this world I
will dance before Herod92, because
he is interested in my sleep
and could compel me to retrace
my steps, to rethread my dreams.
WRECKS
(Nightmare)
Curiosity keeps me awake in front of a man’s face: skin pockmarked, battered,
granulated – but white, but livid; the skull flat, the forehead covered in hemp; nose, mouth
tumescent…the eyes vacant – the rim of a well, the well itself, colourless and with no intensity –
the perfect horizon where I advance, where I am engulfed while an X-ray passes over my
head…I do my best to believe that the image is out of focus; I contract, I dilate, I fiddle around
with the astonished diaphragm of my eyes…
A silence is between us, an obstinacy. It must be my father. He tries his best to
understand and I to convince us – he, my own heart and this man… But I had no sooner felt that
my destiny yielded, cracked, that infinity was restored to me, that I had seen a stop notch in the
adverse abyss – in short: the click of longing – than I turn and flee, shouting, spitting out my
soul, denying and renouncing my conquest, hurling abuse at my star.
I find myself walking in step, in step with my forgiven shadow. My breath, still
uneven with some faded terror, offers me a transition…can one give in to such monsters? and
above all when in such a short time from now so many curlews’ beaks will have to be cut off!
After every café, all the even numbers, a stuffer of birds. More easily than I had
thought, and without leaving any traces, I pass my fist, arm, through the window and with my
curved scissors cut the beaks off at their roots. It’s hard horn, but not much more than my
nails…(Pussy makes no more fuss than me when she lets her claws be trimmed you know)…
Sparrow, seagulls, hares, partridges..none of them must be left! – But the one I’m
looking for, without knowing how it is made, and just to see how it’s made, is the
nightingale’s beak, with its false teeth, with its painted tongue.
86
Concentration station, a regulating station. Arrivals or departures?…Is it my own
departure making my mouth and eyes water? Lies! – Fear, that’s it, the mouth dry.
On a narrow foot board, scarcely a breadboard, a safety board, far from the luminous
roof, far from the helpful platform, at the shifting point of lines, between discs, signals, here I
am, swept away, lost. It’s not a peninsula; I thought it was at first. It’s a band of sand
surrounded by whistles, thunder and night.
I have overtaken my father and seek to convince him, through whatever idea I can think
of in the tumult, of my genius, of my bravura…But I don’t have time. His train comes in and
doesn’t slow down. (‘Your mother will be worried.’) He runs, trying to drag me by the hand,
or rather I am trying to hold him back – dazzling lights. The running board shines at high
speed. I close my eyes…
Something falls which I am still holding onto, my arm now slackened, by a bit of
warm and viscous flesh93. Despair – and stronger, horror – freeze me, and yet despite myself I
see, half-relieved: it’s a jointed wooden artist’s mannequin that clings to my fingers.
The drama was real without a doubt; but Chirico rescued me…and I yell out this lie as
gloriously and loudly as I can, hoping by sheer insistence to force it on everyone, make it come
alive (and my father into the bargain): ‘It’s a miracle! It was only a policeman!…’
*
To the glory of Freud.
So many people make love without knowing it – and love as mediocre, as botched as
the prose of Monsieur Jourdain!94 – It’s time to teach them how to do their job.
The Ivory Tomb95
A man had a confidant. He had to tell him about all his actions, all his thoughts. Any
detail not told would have made him suffer from remorse (sin of involuntary omission). Now,
on his death bed this man had a dream – a marvellous dream that seemed to him to be the
revelation of the entire mystery of life. He was in haste to impart it to his friend. The most
beautiful legacy. But he could not regain consciousness. He struggled at the edge of a
dangerous beach, like a swimmer swept away by the current…he regained his footing briefly –
a ground swell carried him off.
He died without ever having woken. But the superhuman efforts he’d made and the
horror of being forced to keep his secret had disturbed his soul. He died insane.
What do they do with madmen on the other side of the night? This is not foretold in
Jehovah’s statute books.
St Peter saw a man arrive who was ceaselessly repeating the same unknown sounds (St
Peter doesn’t know any French). He led him to God. God understood that the man had lost
his reason and understood the secret (for out of professional necessity God knows all terrestrial
languages) – secret that was considered rather blasphemous. God didn’t get angry (he’s heard
plenty of others!) but he classed it: ‘obscene’, and didn’t dare put the delinquent in hell. For
demons are shrewd and still corruptible.
87
It must be said that usually drunks are mixed up with madmen and are sent to sober up
in the Inferno.
As it should be, God had an inspiration. The angels – who are patriots and from one
little village and not like the demons who come from all the different lands – only speak and
understand Celestial.
God introduced the man to them and left him among them: In truth, he said, this is a
new prophet magnificently singing Our praises. A false interpreter was assigned to the
madman and charged with translating, and forced to imagine his recantation.
But on the festive day when God rewards his best flatterers, the man under attack
regained consciousness and flew to hide himself in his unknown tomb, swearing that it was
better to hold his tongue for all eternity than gossip like women – and serve as a loudspeaker
for divine, or even human, imbecility.
*
Selling one’s soul to God: is to betray the Other.
*
Late season fruits.
The blood orange has its admirers, who suck it smugly. Cooks stalk it; they’d like to
put it in some tartare sauce. However, some, like me, turn their noses up. In silence they
mould bits of bread into balls, delighting in their work, then chuck them in God’s face.
*
The call96
Heaven’s threshold is black; white the knocker on the narrow gate. Here and there
bleached sepulchres, loosened stones the colour of quicklime. The angels got into the house of
the dead by breaking and entering, forcing their way into funerary monuments, tombs, coffins,
urns…but the serpent race watches over us and encourages the flight of souls and bones…
The clarion calls. Standards rinsed with laundry blue line the path of duty. Arms are
presented to God. A military register is taken. Woe betide the poet who might reply ‘absent’
when his name is called, the unnatural soul that might fail to recognize his body.
The stateless men desert in great numbers. Their last game of hide-and-seek. Gabriel
is down below; searching in corners…don’t tire yourself out my child. We can still be judged
in our absence.
Once the police have gone by, each for himself rolls in the grass. Darkness spreads.
Toads sing. The ancient and the newly dead (in other words: the dead and the living)
fraternize.
Suddenly St Thomas, who has sharp hearing, gets worried: Who is being deceived? –
and orders a patrol.
In haste, under threat, the damned come up with some tricks. They bring some rescue
coffins. They crowd into them: women and children first! And when they’re too full and
88
overflowing, the men of good will push down the lids by sitting on them with all their weight.
The diplomatic trunk is shoved back into the shadows, into a burial vault, into a ditch…
No paradise, no hell. It’s a matter of crossing the frontiers of good and evil without a
hitch.
– The others? It’s well-disciplined flesh. These are the same people who, from father
to son, at twenty, say they are happy and proud to wipe the arse of a cannon.
*
E – Being pro-military – but like a children’s maid.
*
Gravestone.
(Extract from a dream)
Leaving the dog show, I visited the cemetery of the aesthetes: vaulted arches of jade,
agate, lapis… Here it is. I stand with my back to it to measure it. My hand on my head, I feel
for the edge of the stone: 1 m. 59. It’s made of frosted black marble, inlaid with white. Two
beautiful feet with long toes, the ring finger and the middle finger separated according to the
ritual design of Jewish hands. Below, this inscription:
HERE LIE
NAKED
THE LEGS OF A DANCER
WHICH DANCED
WHEN DEAD
*
Pigeon flies…
Despite their frontier posts, their home ports and good feelings, the lands and the seas
lift anchor.
*
Obscurantism.
God said: Let there be light! And there was light.
But no-one remembered to add that it could never have appeared without the
intervention of shadow. He alone signed, but the Other was indispensable. We are very
familiar with this type of collaboration.97
89
*
NO MAN’S LAND
Day and night.
Favourite disciple, the Lord’s own darling, Satan revolted against his king. Was this
the weary ambition of a spoilt prince, of an imaginary pretender to the eternity of the kingdom,
hereditary in vain? No, let us rather believe (we who may have been marked out already for a
similar fate) that he suffered from perfectionism, from impatience with the limits of divinity,
from a taste for the impossible…
The fact remains that he went off to sulk in the other celestial hemisphere, established
his own kingdom there, anointed himself, acknowledged himself as its tyrant – fatally similar –
and nevertheless (to what ends? It was neither better or worse) refused to relinquish it.
Daytime up there needed his night; but his light was exactly the same as the angelic shades.
The Assumption of the Demon..
People will revolt against any regime, no matter if it is the result of a revolution, even
anarchy. One of Satan’s subjects soon dreamed up another set of commandments and plotted
against the prince. He was driven out towards heaven.
Vice-versa.
The desertions increased. From one kingdom to the other emigrated the malcontents.
Each, depending on the moment’s caprice, had himself naturalized either as an Infernal or a
Celestial but peace got nothing out of it. (All the Germans can move to France and all the
French to Germany but Berlin and Paris will be no less at loggerheads; Lorraine and the Ruhr
will not confront each other less.)
There was a great reshuffling of Spirits
The snow and her softness continues to fall in feathers ever more thick and fast, less
and less hesitant, would meet without knowing it drops of damp shadow breathed out by
Jehovah.
And that’s all.
Confusion.
Unexpected embrace, an angel, a demon collided in the middle of the intermediate
space. A relentless struggle from the beginning and as long as they didn’t know why. Quite
simply their collision was inevitable. But this hostile embracing so strongly resembled love
that they awoke from it brothers. Obvious conclusion: their rebellion is identical, yes, of the
same nature. Spinning, waltz, vertigo, they lost their sense of direction. What is up and what
is down? (Isn’t the ceiling the firmest ground for a fly?). Gyration becomes their only
thought. Attached one to the other they become part of the astral revolutions, merge, become
rounder, fallen angel and fallen demon, allow themselves to be carried away, a sphere, red
where their cheeks meet flushed with desire and shame for this erotic adventure…
But unsettling the order of the solar system, licentious comet, meteor, they fell quite by
chance into the earthly paradise at exactly the same moment as the apple from Newton’s tree.
90
The tree of Good and Evil.
God deeply mistrusts heavenly gifts. None is better armed with suspicion against such
presents than he. He picks up the meteorite, examines it…and hangs it on the next apple tree
with a notice: FOR EXTERNAL USE.
Adam and Eve, nice puppets, who only ever read eyes but are guided by a remarkable
sense of smell, felt (since it was, after all, necessary) the evening dew of desire rising within
them. Adam, simple child, stuffed everything that fell into his hands straight into his mouth.
Little Eve, precocious girl, buried all her treasures in her sex. In short, each devoured Good
and Evil in their own manner.
Eve’s body is contaminated (she will only ever harbour doubts as to what use she
should put it to). Thanks to opotherapy98 Adam buys himself a soul at great expense.
Frontier land.
The instinct for double revolt is part of Man. He drags his companion to the equator
(fully persuaded that he cannot detatch himself from her) – serpent flexible and stiff, unreliable
line, ideal sign – that so precariously separates the warring kingdoms.
He settles down there, surviving after a fashion and crushing himself, generation after
generation between two armies, between flesh and skin, between the bark and the tree of
Knowledge.
*
May it not be thus
The bread of our prayers is stale bread. The sky, a box of conserves. Not to mention
the eternal soul…
That’s enough about the present, I won’t hock the future. There’s no space to glorify
our daily sins.
If I were God, that is god having repented, I would count my cadavers, my crossingsout.
I’d make use of the harshness of done deeds to give myself a shock, to compel myself to
bounce back to the devil…a trampoline is not a pedestal.
I would recognize: What has been made has been badly made. That’s the way with
impurity.
I’d admit it: That’s how it is.
But I’d decide: That it should be otherwise!
*
SALOME VANQUISHED
Haunted house.
A look? – longed for. No, only eyes, cold eyes, multiplying because they cause me to
suffer. They are vast: I will never cross this desert. Mirror99, that seems more cruel to me the
more that I burn and which refuses me the comfort of my reflection. Red which never
overflows this mouth whose muscles never weaken. But won’t each of its infinitely varied
91
movements be always a new, always a similar rejection? (What were you talking about?…I
was listening really well. – The ocean? Me too. – The ocean is you, you who engulf me).
I am hardly ambitious. Your mouth is too high up for me. But (out of stubbornness)…I
kiss your hand, Iokanaan!100
The whiteness of hands, of all skin visible or guessed at. The phantom is complete. I
possess a number of similar ones. Take your pick, my guests!
Do I create them myself? Certainly. This is how they are, this is how they will be
indestructible. – Change dwelling? Can I do that? No more than a cat. – Change skin? The
serpent’s privilege. Eve only ever knew how to peel Good and Evil when they were presented
in the guise of a universal apple, not in her own heart.
I won’t leave it: How one could get out of oneself I cannot conceive. This house, this
haunting, there’s only one remedy – set light to it.
Wilful arson. Society, you will acquit my memory. I didn’t act out of self-interest (you
will say: lack of discernment). I hadn’t got myself any life assurance.
*
MORE FEAR THAN GOOD101
Demolition enterprise:
Is that really to my taste, my love? It’s a stop-gap. I would like to build something.
There would be no shortage of materials. It’s my plan that is unsatisfactory. – When you are
looking for shelter, do you create difficulties? To justify my house, which would take up little
space, would it suffice that I consent to live in it myself?
Bad habit:
If I cannot consent to it it’s proof that I no longer know how to live alone. What a state
of affairs!
For want of anything better:
Does the world have to be badly made for a being who is odd, but sexually sociable, to
be forced to take refuge in crime as if it were a convent, not only to live in it but even to create
some new values there!
But what kind of crime?…what does it matter! A dead end.
The confession [again make sure is same translation of aveu] of my shame:
Will I blame the circumstances, my contemporaries?
These aren’t the circumstances of my life, these are its causes that have led it astray. I was
condemned before I was born. Executed in absentia.
*
The unnatural ones, the real ones:
No more impossible metaphysics – let them be consigned to the accessory shop:
theatrical costumes. But impossible physiques remain with us, alas! – or thank God! – really
tragic ones, with no theatrical strings.
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Shyness?
Being in love, I remain stupid about it. I don’t pursue, but no more do I flee – for fear
that he will imagine I wish to be pursued…this isn’t modesty, it’s cowardice. It’s be best to
confess it. I wouldn’t know how to impress anyone.
You won’t be able to escape it: neglect is still action; it’s the opposite of it, Pilate.
Negative flirtation has all the inconveniences of the other sort without any of its pleasures.
Massacre game102.
Fairy tales are no longer in season. All my stories, all my heroines end up in moral
turpitude, in downfalls. But it’s only proof by contradiction.103
What do you want! You can’t have this ending any more: ‘they lived happily ever after
and had lots of children.’ There are already far too many in the world.
Repopulation:
There are some people – probably the same ones – who would still yell at us: ‘On to the
very end!’ like during the war…is it for me, their victim and their prey, to howl with the
wolves?
Always her:
Set a good example. It’s not easy. In order to encourage oneself in this, treat what
doesn’t yet exist like an obsession, think about it every day. Will I achieve the longed-for
result?
I am sulking…
A child, like in the past: you refuse me soup, I will deprive myself of desert. – to
punish you and test myself.
But who am I hoping to punish now? Is it God?…and what use is this vain discipline
when it’s used against my own self? It’s the right time, through death, to train oneself to live!
False departure?
Paris, 25 April 1925
To the Chief of Police, the —- district.
Dear Sir,
This is to certify that, taking advantage of the absence of my governess (who this
Sunday has gone out to worship at ————— church, accompanied by my seconds, Mr —-
and Mr ——- of ——————- Street, number ——– ), I have given myself death, alone and
without any help, – WITH PREMEDITATION.
The reason for this act, or if you prefer it’s pretext: the chronic sufferings of defective
health. (I’m such a good liar!) My mind has certainly undergone the contagion of my body – or
vice versa. I make no claim to anyone’s respect, either in general or particular. I only ask that
you conduct yourselves in such a way that neither my family or my friends are made anxious
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– I am necessarily about to disturb them rather…(necessarily? and the pauper’s grave?)
I thank you very much in anticipation and ask you to believe in whatever available
gratitude I’ve got left.
Let me be!
Yes, false. How to prevent a wreck happening, oneself from clinging to it. Keep from
us, oh Lord, our daily bread – that we at last might fast in peace! Crime or suicide? Ask Nero:
Theatre! As far as I am concerned this could easily be a matter of emotional blackmail: you
rejected me, etc.
Stance against nature:
Dressed in a sack (propriety must be observed) and lead weights on his feet, he threw
himself into the Dead sea. He will float thanks to the salt – to the salt substitutes, to the sunken
cinders of tarry towns104…
It’s over. I live on feebly, clinging to words, to fables. Clinging to the dead, to great
names, to those disasters in which I claimed to see my vanity, my ruin and my damned
remains, justified by the Conqueror’s rage. (Among so many confessions, what a ludicrous
confession. I’m wrong to emphasize it. It would be best to let it all pass unnoticed.)
However, I feel bad. Without doubt: my soul has become ingrown105 like a nail nobody
would have bothered to file regularly.
In all of this, who is to blame? Just for once, let’s be French:
Bad government.
Certainly! In democratic heaven God would soon be put in the minority.
An idea which undresses itself. I guarantee it. It was delivered to me naked. I am only
responsible for the swimming costume (designed by So-and-so).
It’s not enough to be vanquished, you must also know how to turn defeat to your
advantage.
*
Finished, mortal, relative.
Joy and pain. At last here they are the parallels that meet in love. But love is not the
infinite – quite the opposite, it’s the thing most certain to be finite. In the realm of the absolute
there is no such thing as chance, such encounters would never take place.
*
All will be explained later…
Maybe they wanted a marriage of convenience? But for many years, the family
intervening, no agreement could be reached: working out the dowry, warranty, division of
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possessions…
The advantage of rape is that it dispenses with the need for a contract. Same with wars,
same with revolutions, I cannot reject attenuating circumstances. To unite or affect a
reconciliation, modesties can only consent to the necessary concessions, sins of pride
humiliations – in silence.
It is so much more simple to act than to speak. Have I ever heard the opposite?
For myself I’m interested in making the game more complicated. Those who live by the
tongue have discovered a way of talking that replaces action, that’s even more simple – and
less compromising.
*
Triple sec.106
Let the men speak, these criminals, your brothers: they’d act if they hadn’t spoken.
*
The interpreter and the town crier
Set fair:
Talk to everyone in their hereditary tongue, tell each his own truth (to be translated
across all temperaments), this is how God, if he were less clumsy, could establish unity in his
work – one dictator, European peace.
Unsettled:
On the contrary, the way to achieve general dissent: speak to everyone using the same
words. Misunderstanding will miraculously spread. Multiplication of sects. Heresies
guaranteed. (Verified.)
*
Let others act!
With simple words it’s so easy to be defeated.
*
Wrong way
At these borders I loiter uncertain of the language of flowers…(her mouth has taken on
the fold of a lily petal.)
By the longest? By the shortest?…I hesitate, and time passes…passes and goes by
again. I leave, rushing my goodbyes. I register my heart. I deposit my fear.
(All roads lead to Rome.)
*
95
Walking backwards.
May an angel do me the honour of undressing himself, unmasking himself in front of
me, I’m afraid of embarrassing him, I turn my head or lower my eyes…
*
Handshake.
A man in the sea! A bit of flesh floats, an arm already shattered by refraction, a
clenched flower strains, a little frog’s foot…
In the lifeboat, the master swimmer (role created by a woman) plays heads or tails with
his lead medal…bah! You can always be polite, it doesn’t commit you to anything. He’s a shy
one, he won’t insist; I know him. So long as the tone is right, of course: ‘How are you, dear
friend?’
*
You can’t think of everything.
Clothed at the foot of the bed I realize it would be necessary to peel my dress off – and
that my skin would come off with it.
*
Choke pear.107
You’d have to burden yourself with theory, know how to handle a flesh toy…
‘Squeeze the rubber animal: he gives out a feeble cry’
…this way of using it fails to take pain into consideration (the patient’s feelings). I
would be wrong to comply with it.
Useless precaution
Death – love – it was to be expected. In my mind and with my actual hands I had
already done the preparatory exercises, manoeuvres, dress rehearsal. But I hadn’t anticipated
so many props, criminal refinement, vain formulas, this luxury of adjectives, prefixes, endings,
this interminable conjugation of verbs, these days, these garrulous nights, this extravagant style
of God – the Chinese torturer – boredom – the kiss in the ear.
Reparation
(He certainly owes me that.)
It’s simple: he knows everything about me that he wanted to. Why should he come
back? It would be a waste of time.
In vain I sought, examined each ridiculous argument in turn, each supplication, literary
or desperate appeal – no way to attract him, no lie; even insults…
If only I could send my seconds to him, get a duel arranged. At least I’d see him
again…
Men are so lucky!
*
96
Shuffle the cards.
Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that
always suits me. If it existed in our language no one would be able to see my thought’s
vacillations. I’d be a worker bee for good.
*
The arrangements of the poet with his infirmity.
Blind oneself in order to see better. Make sparks fly while striking at shadows. Strike
at the deafening silence to make oneself a malleable friend. Strike a mighty blow at syntax and
rhythm and the verb to extract from them the water of death.108
*
Unassailable.
He’s holding on. But doesn’t unassailable equate to indefensible?
*
The exception proves the rule – and weakens it too.109
I’m obsessed with the exception. I see it as bigger than nature. It’s all I see. The rule
interests me only for its leftovers with which I make my swill. This is how I deliberately
downgrade myself. That’s my own bad luck.
*
Yet I am obsessed with order. I like to challenge mystery, submit it to reason. I hate
preconceptions; but only others’. If I neglect the facts that annoy me, if I pretend to scorn life,
it’s because the unreal permits one to take all kinds of liberties.
The abstract, the absolute, the absurd, are a malleable element, a plastic material, the
word one appropriates. That is all for me alone.
And so, at ease, I associate, dissociate – and formulate without laughing the odious rule
of my collection of exceptions.
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VIII
N.O.N
It’s not enough to be vanquished, you also
have to know how to turn defeat to your advantage.
To what good?
*
There’s no reason to be proud: Even the most honest among us, – unless handing out
pamphlets – all, traders in the temple.
*
Beauty products.
Fragile – With Care – Perishable goods.
*
And even our victories are only ever mutilated victories.
*
Modesty.
The black crowd, the anonymous: the silvering behind the glass where the poet admires
himself.
*
Jealousy:
He was afraid of his peers and only spent time with the dead. But the dead gave him
bad advice.
98
*
At sea level.
Standing at the edge of the great smooth soul – calmed crowd – he chose a flat body,
from those who are skimming stones far away.
*
The anachronism of the great puzzle.
With the new timetables, no way of looking for midday at fourteen hundred hours
remains. In our utilitarian world no game-playing activity is tolerated. It’s not such and such
an artist, but a priori to art itself that posterity does justice in advance.
(It can be put in overalls, nothing will be changed by doing so.)
*
Not an angel’s tail…
Only dry ideas that are isolated, one of a kind, can be easily retained. When an idea
falls into a crowded place, running water, it is lost. I will never rediscover even one letter of it,
the initial.
*
Good will (imperative or conditional).
Try to understand a situation by replacing it with another (if possible one of ours) – in
the same way that you might change a pronoun in a sentence to work out if you need to use the
verb in the indicative or the subjunctive.
*
Pro domo
We are not more naive. Great liar and poet, he denounces the concern to be sincere in
the name of art : ‘it’s the sign of a sterile genius.’
His little sister is getting fat, condemned (or as they say, condemns herself) to prove
that beauty, health, virtue are only to be found among women and ‘sturdy’ races.
You could quite truthfully say that we are all born guilty. And we drink to forget. We
drink our soul. Drunk but terrified by our little differences we are obliged to convince
everyone else that the truth for everyone is our way of being.
Everyone wants their formula to be the only hope of salvation. Happy boys only take
kindly to lightness, a free and easy manner. The afflicted, the rebellious (am I not numbered
amongst you?) – we demand dreams, claws out or velvet paws. A philosopher draws up a list
of his negative and positive qualities. These will be the new sins, universal values. In the end,
for the sceptics, for the believers (be it in God or the devils) to doubt is as to believe.
We know all too well unfortunately that it’s they who say this.
Malice stitched with a vulgar thread. Ariane dreams of her little profits. She rigged
99
her labyrinth and I started to distrust the night, the day and the sought-for danger.
I fan my cards in my hand. I show how I value them in the way that I use them. I lose,
I win, it’s your business – It will have been pointless me discussing the king and queen with
you…You know this is about mine.
Even if I don’t know how to hide my game, will I at least know how to cheat with my
cards on the table?
*
Pass!
They need a password. Even if I have the knack for it, I refuse to summarize the world
in five letters – even if it’s five capitals. I will no longer resign myself to seeing impurity
reduced to five senses, to the seventh art, to the twentieth century. I don’t want to know your
formula: my memory, tempted by wild strawberries or the werewolf’s mouth, would leave it
by the wayside. I would approach your sentries already condemned to death. Am I eternal,
sluggish and sinking in the sands to sustain you or me with mortal puns? I will desert your
armies. I will freely circulate in the intermediate space. We’ll see if your gods or your bullets
can drive me out of it.
*
Luxurious industries.
The great question is not: does it have a purpose? – but: does it add anything?
Today Mecenius, if he is not a great business man, is someone who’s gone down in the
world and is worthy of contempt. What would it matter that Mallarme’s poems are obscure if
they could serve to advertise a mask shop or menstrual undergarments? Do you wish to be
respected in your lifetime? Take something better to your boss than tentative ‘hopes’; take
him his clientele, ready-made, first sell chestnuts or chips. Vindicated by your profits, you are
unassailable (‘since this sells…’).
Provided that it has its quotation on the Bourse, the useless beautiful work has pride of
place next to the vile work. The wonder of expensive illuminations, the lofty fireworks, so
much wasted carbon and so many dazzled eyes (provided that Citroen gets something out of it)
do not surprise those – poets! – who protest the most vehemently against the poet’s pointless
short outing.
Sometime we are asked to accept that what matters is the most nourishing dish rather
than the useless ornaments that decorate the table. But it’s just a manner of speaking.
The least nourishing dish and also the least fresh flowers matter very much, where
such a combination leads to sales, provided that the people who are paying can be persuaded
that certain luxuries are indispensable or that indigestion is the height of happiness.
Supply determines demand. Luxury goods in series become absolutely essential items.
Prostitutes certainly have a lovely line of business. (Maybe there is also room for
virtue…) But woe betide the girl who is mad about her body, mad about her soul, who claims
100
she gives her favours just to please herself, pain and pleasures for free! Love for love’s sake is
disgusting. That is a luxury indeed, the only one described as shameful.
*
He chose the virtue he found the easiest…
Sell your soul? If you only had to sign it away it would be quickly done. Faint-hearted
when considering an action, the same person is full of daring the very next instant – when
impulse closes every door, save the one where our footsteps have already trampled the
threshold.
Thankfully there are still formalities to conclude, the miserly business of bidding.
‘Simplify your administration, o Satan!’ advises the virtuous maiden as she puts herself
forward to be damned by you. There’s even more protocol here than in paradise! Where to
find one’s catechism? Secret protocol: no school.
*
Ivory tower.
(It still exists. It’s good to know that it’s ridiculous in name only. In reality it’s tragic.
It’s a state institution: a prison for weaklings.)
As soon as I come out of my reverie and dream of making my entrance in the world I
hear doors slam shut.
*
He is with the age of compromise.
Your madness, your ideal, your soul – what are they worth? It’s not vanity but profit
that you should be getting from them. Keeping these trinkets at home is greedy; increase them,
corner the market; make alms of them, a guilty extravagance.
No-one’s asking you for the moon. Quite the opposite. We’ll all be satisfied if it goes
on a second hand stall. Monuments to piety, that’s what we are. Enter into our motives, you
are intangible.
*
Useless precautions.
Whenever my sense of unfinished duty, whenever my weak wish for power, dressed me
up as a demon, as a hero all the better to ridicule itself: I was thinking, rather a stain than
death! (Otherwise trust in attenuating circumstances.)
*
Some gloves – gloves’ fingers…
a diving suit.
A mask for protection against gas (overly-personal odours or suffocating perfumes).
101
…And then, turning the head away a little…
*
No guarantee of God.
It’s the white soul slave trade, God trafficking his glory…
*
Vacant position
THEM (angel’s voice):
The torch? Are you insured against fire then?
Are you soaked in the waters of the river Lethe that you deliver your body up for
women to bite?
In order to hold the vulgar in contempt, or sometimes to combat it, do you believe
yourself to be loaded with fists like a Hindu idol, with innumerable arms and souls – do you
think you’re the strongest?
Alone with your dishonour which is the name you have given your pride, in vain, islet
battered by doubts and riots (waves unleashed by your own madness), cemetery invaded by
rye-grass110 which you refuse to tear up or which you even sow along with the good grain,
alone – are you so sure that you love yourself, sure that you can be sufficient for yourself?
Alone – may you declare: you are free, you who forge the bars of your own prison.
Despair, hope which will sulk like a chastised child, the vanity of the passions’
voluntary exile – for not having conceded the easy concession – and untimely death, this is
what the spirit that rejects the recognized rules will meet on its walled-up way.
Stick to the well-behaved, necessary boundary marks of a well-brought up way of
thinking – and you will be saved.
We will give you success, wealth – maybe power. We will ask very little of you in
exchange; nothing more than the appearance of capitulation.
Castrate your ill feelings – or even better (a word in your ear) keep them for yourself,
secret, decent: put a little loincloth on them…
See how much more accommodating we are than your master. Would he be satisfied
with a pretend evil spirit?
We pay in ready cash, just like and better than him; and we ask for nothing in return,
just a bit of hypocrisy…
ME – Have I come to this?…So what! I won’t succumb. I won’t deny my defeat any
more than a victory. It’s not for loan, nor rent, nor sale. On earth as in hell we are sheltered
from vertigo. The demon is not tempted.
Noblesse oblige: Sell your soul to God, truthfully! – impossible downfall for a disciple
of the Other.
*
Dangerous for whom? Do you think I run after the clientele? If Devil is fencing
spices, he’s too fond of them himself, he’s not making any money out of them. He’s eating his
102
capital, he’s putting his own ruin first. Had he left an apple on the tree for Eve we could
wonder at it.
*
Colours.
Red, the sexual instinct. Yellow, hunger. Blue, fear. And their derivatives: Orange,
sociability. Green, tricks. Indigo, consciousness of myself, of humanity. Violet,
consciousness of oneself, of the superhuman.
To put it another way: Violet, pride. Indigo, true love. Blue, weaknesses. Green,
compulsive lying. Parsimony and avarice, yellow. Orange, vanity. Red, lust and sex mania.
And their corresponding colours on the other side of the prism: Red, courage. Orange,
emulation. Yellow, order and energy. Green, art. Blue, goodness, all kinds of indulgence.
Indigo, heroism. Violet, dignity – and spirituality.
But I’ve had enough of tracing the nuances from white to black the infinite detail of
these elastic virtues. Aren’t we ever going to discover ultra-violet sentiments? Who wouldn’t
devote themselves to infra-red itself in order to experience the least inaccessible of so many
forbidden notes on this incredible, inhuman scale….
*
The madman
Blind people should be told about colours, deaf people should be shown the vibration
of sounds, and we should dance in front of the paralysed person’s coffin – on our feet, on our
hands, dance with the whole body.
Angels have had enough of duty, of the happiness of exercising their wings. May they
do without my praises! May the birds not expect any speeches about aviation from me.
I want to scandalise the innocent, little children, old folks, with my nudity, my raucous
voice, the obvious reflex of desire. Those who are without sin, it is good that they cast stones
at me, that in my human stupidity (that is to say immortal) the superhuman feels humiliated.
In an indulgent mirror, God smiles at his mouth while he puts his lipstick on…I enter. I
get in between. He will never again forget that Medusa herself was made in his own image.
Confused in the midst of the invisible, you all – unbelievers – will pass me through your
breast, without wounding yourselves, without realizing.
This is how it is: this futile cruelty, misunderstood, it finds its just deserts in men’s
scorn.
Who can feel the movement of the earth? It doesn’t mean it’s turning any the less.
Can it stop itself?
If our love is like that, it means we have to roll the rock,111 fill the barrel, give life to all
powers beyond good and evil, all forms without souls, lend our voice, our tongue, our lips, to
those who are silent: mute – modest – or dead.
*
103
Check the bill.
St Thomas wants Jesus to take up miracles again, for he is one of those who are never
completely sure that they’ve turned off the gas.
*
The autonomy of the ring finger.
For me, a miracle, terror or charm, surprise, is anything I cannot obtain from my body
or soul. For the Christ, Christ is completely normal. He didn’t even get any joy from walking
on water.
*
Fortune tellers.
At the edge of the present, leaning over an abyss…of coffee grounds or any old
washing-up water. Objects placed behind us are reflected clearly in it. We find this reassuring:
the whole adventure takes place on the battlefield. The future is under history’s
guarantee. All’s well that ends well.
*
The eve of battle.
The Orient parades… Crouching, trembling, ready to pounce. The Occident’s great
vigil.
You can always sing or pray while waiting for the torturers – or bite your nails with
impatience.
Some prefer to busy themselves breaking spears for their condemned beauty. I pity
them. They will never know their role as victim.
*
Tooth-pullers (amateurs and professionals).
Surgeons are torturers with good intentions. The difference shifts, depending on the
case, on the people, from scorn to respect, from hatred to love. See it anyway you like.
For me, woman I am and glory in it fleetingly. If someone steps on my toe, let him
either love me or apologize.
*
Artists, false prophets, ponderous intellectuals etc., are leading the dance because of the
mistakes of others, strong people who are so at ease in their skin that they sleep in it and allow
themselves to be dominated by us, the weak, the sick, men of the very worst lineage.
*
104
One foot in sin, in the tomb, in the abyss. Singe your soul. Approach evil and God to
speak out. Bemoan grace. But hold onto the edge, say nothing.
Everyone carries the weight of their own virtues. I cannot commit someone else’s sins.
I burden myself with them fruitlessly, offer myself to the holocaust112, through a martyr’s or an
actor’s vanity prolong my role as others’ replicas, in rebellions that are those of my fellow
human beings, that are not mine, if I – consciously – try to modify my being, make it more
acceptable, my most vile crimes will be considered virtues, somewhere, in God’s empty
heaven.
*
Uber alles
A Sunday like all the other Sundays outside the world: with no beginning or end.
Yesterday it was the creation, around the clock-face in twelve hours, on the hour, on the
minute. A circular madness, incessant seconds. This evening: unlimited free time, eternity in
slow motion. Necessarily, it’s always the same thing.
My sempiternal enemy hides his cards from the Invisible. – By dint of cheating at the
metaphysical game haven’t we acquired that infernal impudence which allows us to see over
the shoulder of the Highest Being?
A hand in close-up, fleshy, pink, smooth – simply: naked – and with no heart line. A
fan of peoples, churches, erections. Multiform anthills. Majorities assert themselves: quantity
and capital. Shadowy capital cities, where the works department, guaranteed by the
government is locked behind offensive walls. A canon stoppering up the holes, dreams with
no range, redundant arrow slits…In the work, the race can be perceived, its ideal, its whore,
and even the make of the human machine. Red, black, white – and yellow. Occident, Orient,
flow into each other like colours or badly coagulated bloods [sic]. – Cubes, wedding cakes 36
tiers high, 40,000 candles. Beauties with large regular features. – Architecture in a crinoline,
pearl grey and royal blue, tradition eliminated, remade, ‘smart and simple’ chiffons at
Samaritan, this is Paris. – Ivy, flower and cabbage patches, mist, pleasure well defended, well
kept, discreet glass houses, granite prisons….,etc…, etc…
The Imbecile, he’s going to carry out an act of God, decide on no matter what.
Everything will be alright in the end. – No! No, this is the big one. Lay your cards on the table,
Lord!
*
Hasty generalizations
Children today fear only one thing:
That their dreams will come true.
With all his weight the man intervenes, seeking a fulcrum on the stone he condemns –
diverted law, gravity – pushing apart, bringing down the temple’s pillars…
(Happy ruin, impressive ideal, certain success.) No doubt a noble gesture – especially
since we saw that he was the first to waver. But the drunken strength of Samson has become
scientific. His blows, well calculated. Charlot113 teetering (because that’s still the tradition
105
after all!), but thanks to studio special effects easily escapes the worst and extricates himself
unscathed. He can be reborn from our ashes; he has paid the phoenix interest in gold and
blood. If someone threatens him with a fine: ‘I don’t care,’ he says, ‘I am insured.’ – All the
same he’ll collapse under the avalanche he provokes, under outdated theatre decorations, will
we be grateful to him for his intentions, for sacrificing innocent lives at the same time and
more cruelly than his own? Will we avoid criticizing his work? Calling him to account:
inventories of death beds, review of souls? I can hear his proclamation clearly: Peoples –
historians – woman – o mean-spirited sister! I only want to see the necessity of the disaster.
Isn’t the very ugliness of the rubble my justification? Don’t go into detail.
Then in the harsh lights of the fire, a long-haired, indignant shadow, makes three slow
circuits of the world; assails, surrounds, mounts an assault on the destroyer; stands up to him,
draws himself up, dominates him; No prison cell for him, no oubliette.114 He can be visited.
The hecatomb115 is open to the winds, admirable in itself, with no ultimate excuse. ‘Always
the same ones! And as for creation, didn’t you change it long ago for some reason?…You
don’t understand a thing about it. I am a stone breaker.’
*
Fishers in murky waters
It goes without saying that a pond after a storm is the perfect playground for a poet.
Each holds on to his interest by its slippery tail116. And the highest interest doesn’t have its
noble titles any less falsified than the lowest.
My line is well baited. It’s quick to work. A few minutes sunlight will be enough for
me. The rest of the time the sky can do its worst. Perpetual rage. Cruelty with no remission
(except for the necessary deglutition117 of blood, and sometimes love at first sight prolonging
an erection). I’ll lend it a helping hand. – One – two – three. Multiplication of hands. O
miracle! Abandon. Relieved passions open their revolting lockgates…
What honest look does not prefer the hour of clarity, the decor in tinted plates118? Even
if it is self-defeating and ends with only one’s own face reflected in them. Monotonous
mirage…
*
How would you sum up what you do in life?
– I resist temptation.
*
Foresight.
Live in bed, float on your back, so as not to sink in the flood that God certainly owes us
this century.
*
106
Game of chance.
The earth spins like a crazy roulette ball. God’s forgotten how to cheat. When you
look at it, since creation God’s come out of this perilous adventure pretty well.
But…leave while you’re winning, Lord, it’s time!
*
The year 2000 (end of the world).
Does God count the days and strike them off on the Prussian soldier’s calendar? Or the
Cossack’s or the Greek infantry man’s?
– On the day, at the time you wish!
– Man, is it you who organizes meetings? Be sure that the Eternal will fall on top of
you when your soul is least prepared. Taken by surprise you’ll have to improvise your own
defence. Don’t trust to suns, moons, stars – nor even spasmodic comets. Your almanac119 is
obsolete.
Balance is our law.
In creating matter, God decreed a certain part of the soul as a dowry for himself. But
too many bodies nowadays fight over the legacy.
*
Tin of sardines (democracy).
There should be more games going on in human relationships. Ideas barge into each
other, passions collide, our souls – like sheep – are rammed on top of each other now that
millions who willingly got themselves crucified have stopped showing off about their
suffering, dropping the ‘de’ in their names, burning their noble letters and shouting:
‘stampede!’
Science thickens, the air is gluey, the blood sticks in our veins. The density of byproducts
immobilizes art itself. Crabs vomit our waste. The ocean is decomposing. –
Catastrophes and blonde beauties are served.
It’s a soup the spoon can stand up in.
*
Each century (century is not exactly the right word here), every arbitrary fraction of
time, ushers in a moralist with his own new morality. This can never be just once and for all.
The slightest change of morals involves a shift of focus.
There are some basic tasks that have to be seen to each and every day.
*
Depopulation.
I will give the same explanation for pain (since I don’t believe in it any longer) as
others have given for pleasure. The same theory, summed up by the optimist and the
107
pessimist:
Pleasure: lure for reproduction.
Pain: obstacle to reproduction.
*
A chicken lays an egg and sings. A woman lies down, is as good as dead for a few
days, and groans. Why this difference? The race of chicks is a good race; there will never be
too many of them in the world, especially since we love them ab ovo120.
The children of men are harmful for the most part. It is claimed that they are
edible…but if they’ve been devoured a longtime before their birth is’s best not to brag about it.
However it was a good thing to do, they are too many of them, they’re dirty and they take up
space…
In short, God noticed that the world is soiled, that his garden is littered with greasy
wrappers from ink, sweat and gold (yes, I do maintain that gold is greasy).
Reduce their number. Through some excess, naturally. I would have suggested excess
of well-being…but since Luther and Calvin, who could boast of having converted God? Not
even the beautiful foliage of sterile fig trees were able to touch his heart…
He makes wars, disasters, suffering etc forcibly intervene…
What has man got to moan about when he has consigned himself to the prompter’s
hidy-hole?
*
Parasite
(Without committing oneself)
Modesty! Mite of invisible adventures, of discreet transformations, the corpse’s
flirtation, sully the murderer’s hand with gold, perforate time, avarice, pierce stocking
tops…Here am I, innocent, a jobless virgin, a queen on strike, voluntarily unemployed,
marginalized and as they say, outlawed from society.
Follow my example: Stay at home and eat wool.
*
Mouldy patches
Here I am. I’ve been put against the wall in penitence. Shall I measure its
thickness, multiply, count how many stones high it is?…Leave these jobs to others. Let me
have the best bit. I can do nothing other than dream when faced with its noble blemishes,
mouldy patches where each finds the form of his loves, loses it, finds it again and can then see
nothing else (surprised by surprised looks, shame, angry that the whole world can’t see it too)
until the day when he himself…an imperceptible displacement of the soul has clouded the
mystery. The man had confused the image with his own superimposition.
Mutable monsters (what am I saying?), decor where God’s skin sticks, where his dark
sweat drips, poignant imprint, unique, irrefutable fingerprint evidence.
108
*
A love potion of glory
(poison for external use)
Illustrious men assert that they have read, re-read and augmented the lives of their
fellows in Plutarch. They have always been careful to avoid having a twitch, the anecdotal, the
peculiarities of genius – traps that commentators willfully proffer them. They know that they’ll
always produce enough of their own.
What to say of the willing failure, who out of disgust for common measures, vulgar
virtues, seeks abandonment, deliberately takes on all the ‘ifs and buts’ of Fate?
Lover of weaknesses, do you think you’ll make a good stock of love by boiling up the
lovers’ chastity belt, their break-up letters, their crocodile tears and purple sage?
Add the playthings of your solitary nights, and serve cold.
*
False value
(virgin gold)
Pride, so far as I can make out, consists of establishing that our unrefined riches (even
given that the veins are very poor) weigh more than the minted riches of this world’s great
ones.
It’s all about reducing things! Exchange rates, generations of bankers, mean little to
me. Let the Bank of France either buy back my gold or prohibit it, it’s its own business. But
so long as the ore is taken from the mine and the metal extracted according to all the rules of
art, I will not allow myself to forget it.
*
Scruples (my defence).
I am frightened of misinterpretations. If I omit the slightest inflexion I distort the verb
and the whole of life. It’s much better to show only the tiniest corner of it.
Them – that’s quickly said!
Me – I would have too much to say.
*
The iris that I cannot put make-up on.
Memory? Selected extracts. My soul is fragmented. Between birth and death, good
and evil, between the tenses of the verb, my body serves me for transition.
*
The breach.
109
Just as we are about to extricate ourselves from the game, swept away by the
intellectual rapids, derail, escape from the infernal circle – tangential, unconscious, haggard,
half-ghosts – suddenly, with a jerk, the body clings back on. Scenes. Crisis. The monotony of
its ticketed, timed caprices, its old girl’s obsessions and worse, its animal appetites, must be
suppressed.
*
I get in my shadow’s way quite horribly and can’t escape him: we’ve been handcuffed.
*
Keep an eye on your sleep.
The musician, the painter, are the true civil servants of the absolute. Once they’ve
done what they have to, they can pack up their bags. Obviously when it comes to the ear and
the eye they never stop working. But it is not enough for a writer to put an arm in the machine;
he has to get in completely. If he holds anything back, the diamond will be spoiled by such a
blemish that all the world’s brilliance will be in vain.
*
Watch out for alternatives!
The poet has to sacrifice himself twice: for himself and for the other. (Sentence needs
rewriting)
The poet has to be ready to sacrifice his life twice:
For the love of art – his work, posterity, the king of Prussia121…but when it comes down
to it he’s a man like everyone else: for you, for himself, for the first to arrive.
– However I am no less cowardly about it!
*
Put on notice.
Marsyas122 is a myth for little children only. Play with the flayed one123 and don’t overindulge
your skin.
*
Dying of hunger
Before I get there, how many dead people will I meet on my way that I won’t know how
to avoid. Before corporeal privations, only futile privations: love, ambition, liberty, harmony,
dream…the least chimeric Roman is as likely as a Russian to allow the circus to take
precedence over daily bread124.
If I regain consciousness after so much fainting, I will suffer unspeakable discomforts in
my flesh which is devoted to so many more delicate torments: finally cold, weakness…and
110
insomnia will make all food disgusting to me. Everyone carries unexpected conclusions within
themselves, among these, to face up to the great fear, the great desire must not be forgotten.
But under another name: vertigo, aren’t they inseparable?
Mysterious without make-up, we touch her with a finger. Play bones with a skeleton.125
(I recommend it to all bare-footed children at Christmas, without a nest for eggs to be laid in.)
We’ve got the beautiful praying mantis who devours those she has fiercely fascinated
within our skins, bone deep, and that isn’t all. We desire her less than we respect her. We are
interested in her soul more than anything. In her rest.
*
The dead get ready
I thought we had a definite rendez-vous that day, I’d got dressed up for her126 down to
the finest detail. Eyelids closed on this world of vanities, my lips uniting in a kiss of peace, my
right and left finally reconciled, I waited for her. But she’s not very punctual.
Thrice I redid my preparations, thinking each time to put less hope into it, more
negligence, but conceding to my taste for the ostentatious.
Is it the unexpected that she requires? Make a soul of myself in order to please her?
Well, let her leave me! – or take me as I am.
*
Death without sentences.
Death = Simplicity. Once and for all.
Life = Complexities. Always having to start again.
Life, demanding wife to be re-conquered beside each bed. Daily bread. Work or
unemployment.
No-one spends much on a girl who’s just passing through. You don’t experience much
shame with someone there’s no risk of seeing again.
Uncertainty still keeps us from our goal. But we would be wrong to encumber
ourselves with an arms license, a flask or instructions. The end will soon have justified the
worst chosen means..
*
With neither flowers nor crowns.
Thanks to God, and despite our pretensions, we scarcely dream about, scarcely think
about death.
Good little chickens, innocent fattened calves, pigs led to abattoirs, blindfolded like
love.
*
111
Success has crowned our efforts. But with a crown of thorns.
*
No letters this morning? Fine, it’s for the best!
I have a lot of luck. But unpleasant, negative. It consists of putting the privative ‘a’ in
front of all dangerous, unhealthy or simply dubious pleasures. I have a taste for pleasure,
questionable ambitions.
But your, our covetousness taken as whole, and humanity itself, aren’t all these
unreliable?
My luck, after all, would only be a sophism.
– It’s always like that.
While waiting for words to cross swords I want to be a second for them.
*
Before the cock crows I will deny myself without counting.
The defenceless animal: feigns death. In the same way my soul rolls itself up into a
ball, my pride contracts, my life draws it claws back in all the way up to its armpits, to the
groin. Up to the neck, in shadows sinking. All who have a shell gather up their vulnerable
desires and put themselves in solitary confinement.
While I was still young and supple I began these laudable practices. I became so used
to doing them that I wouldn’t know how to sleep unshielded. But as soon as the eye was under
the tortoise127, I dreamed only of denials:
Fearing that he isn’t expecting to inherit from me and doesn’t care for my body, I
surrender my soul to God in advance.
To avoid making anyone jealous:
Fearing that he will lead me into seeking adventure, Marguerite or Titine128, or any other
conventional happiness – and to have some peace – I bequeath my portion of paradise to the
demon.
Let them sort it out!
Conflicting renunciations. – I am signing both registers at once, but without conviction.
Imitating my own handwriting. Will I be convicted of fraud? – Eternity, a futile threat! At the
call for immortal souls what will be done about the one hidden under earth who hasn’t moved?
*
The eternal return
Like the sea – like history – the gods are tireless.
When Eurydice died for the second time, the gods, moved by Orpheus’ fury, promised
112
him a second proof.
‘Enough of this recidivism!’ the poet replied. ‘You’re not going to make me entrust my
weathercock to the thousand winds or imitate the squirrel in its cage any longer for nothing. I
accept the blindfold, I reject Eurydice. Certainly, it will be easy for me to blind myself, to shut
my eyes to the past if, instead of Eurydice, I bring Beatrice back from the Inferno. A new life.
It doesn’t matter who I love and who I need and if I lose on the deal. I won’t pay a widow’s
mite for another go on the merry-go-round. Substituting one object with the same object is fine
for you, the immovable.
If someone steals my handkerchief, even if I cry all the tears of a head cold, rather than
buy another one I’ll blow my nose in any original sock. At least I will have the feeling of being
alive, of perfecting my pain, of adding another string to my lyre.
Orpheus doesn’t join the circle. That’s a game for children, slaves and submissive
stars.’
*
Absolutes
Difficult children, that’s what we are. The earthly paradise of the Bible would never be
enough for us. Far from it. Even Mohammed’s self-improvements scarcely touch us except on
café terraces. Just to let ourselves get swept along by time, women seem really insipid to us.
We have learned to twist sacred sentiments like the liquorice bars of a prison for a laugh.
Cinema contributes to the perversion of our supra-celestial ambitions. Allusions, ever clearer,
to pleasures outside nature (an elastic body in a plastic landscape). Our hair stands on end and
it’s already getting its claws out of time and space. We need original miracles, supernatural
content according to the latest fashion.
Adam attacks God, Eve her man, the Creator his accomplice…But the serpent chucked
the apple on the dunghill himself: ‘it’s over-ripe’, he said.
Nauseated by Christ, Jesus refuses communion: a gamey129 host.
*
Fall in!
In the sunlight, the shadow is clearly defined. Alone and dense, it draws itself up,
stretches out and slowly turns. But in our shattered night the faceted stars cling to windows, to
the fastest bursts, to overwhelming moments. A spume of colours and fires flickers under our
eyelids, dazzling the twilight, disintegrating the darkness, multiplying our double, rendering it
too familiar. We can’t take a step without walking over us, shadow-circled as we are, our
shadows attack, of varying thicknesses and weight they thrash about, shove into each other and
leap at our throats.
Someone, it doesn’t matter who, it doesn’t matter which of these madwomen it was,
squared up to me, threw me to the ground and took my place. In vain. The game begins again,
the same infernal game, of shadow in its turn deceived, of scattered flesh that the headlamp of a
car sweeps up, of fugitive gestures that an electric light renders formless, of an influx, of a
reflux of reflexes whose blindfold can be lifted by the slightest vibration of light.
113
May the magnet130 come at last, the catalysis, the shadowy beauty always effective and
never corroded. May he come, he who does not go from door to door proclaiming his power,
he who will enter my body without knocking…Let him come!
After him, strong from him, all I will have to do is appear.
Is it ‘catalyst’ rather than ‘catalysis’? It sounds wrong somehow.
IX
114
I.O.U
We get the god we deserve, unfortunately for us.
I OWE YOU
Pray while you yawn – but pray!
*
Metaphysical cowardice
Heaven lies above your head, and the wind of vertigo bends your knees. In a parallel
state, you don’t give a damn about truth, about the earth…it is enough to reassure you that the
lookout calls from the crow’s nest: Horizon!
*
Earth to earth.
Purgatory is within our reach: only uncertainty is human. Paradise without the fear of
leaving it is equal to Hell without hope. A sensual pleasure only exists to the extent one is
threatened with losing it.
They only appreciate their happiness in retrospect. Up above, if they haven’t changed
soul, they’ll be retelling the same little tales about their lives down here like so many old
women. They’ll be saying: Those were the good old days!
*
God.
I sometimes speak about what is true, more often about what is false. How can you
recognise yourself in all this?
*
Behind each deed lies faith. I don’t care which, I just need one. Without it everything
denies itself, silences itself, mouths eat their words. Destruction itself waits in suspense. My
hair, my nails stop growing. The dead surely have some obscure belief.
*
I am in training don’t kiss me.
If ever it happens that I believe in a god outside myself, at certain times it seems to me
115
that he has got the upper hand: having eternity before him. With his means at their disposal
any murderer, innocent, prostitute, the bottom of their class, the lowest of men, could equal
him, could easily topple him from his throne…yes, saved from the intolerable distractions of
misery, love, illnesses, and at the same time allowed to take my time, I’d feel like his equal…
And maybe He wouldn’t be much of a match for me, who knows?
*
Self-development.
I would never wish to worry myself, burden myself with anything else. Alas! We can
only chase that hare by pursuing all the others at the same time.131
*
Litmus paper
We should mistrust the blue reactions of the soul. If it’s easier to agree on negations
that doesn’t lead very far. The enemies of our enemies are not our friends.
It would be better to admit that all beings are, in one way or another, incompatible.
This doesn’t prevent negotiation, nor even the meeting and amalgamation of the powers that
you know, living proofs. If the destroyer has his wiles, have no doubt that the creator has his.
I would like to add a sentence but cannot do so out loud. Let each of my adversaries
approach: I will whisper it in his ear.
Has God himself ever been able to talk to you otherwise?
*
In praise of paradox
Great proverbs are mirror writings, pedestal beds, perfect statues. Let’s play round and
round. Each time you come up with a sentence it would be wise to turn it over to see if it’s
good. It’s easier than casting out the nines.132
The nymph Echo wanted to please Narcissus so much that the fountain sent his words
back to him, face to face, the wrong way round.
The echo, the one that comes from God, returns my thought (subject, interchangeable
suffix, verb intact – the verb being the Word.)133
The echo, the one that comes from my thought, returns God like a mirror my body
(right and left interchangeable – and the middle a good likeness I am told.)
Shouldn’t the soul and truth then have their cardinal points?
*
Happiness is not found at bargain prices.
116
Mistrust pleasures that cost nothing, innocent joys, free passions, compassions and even
great heroic repentances on the cheap. Taking everything into account these are the dearest.
You’ll have children in your arms, bodies ill from intellectual excesses, the eyes of the blind,
exhausted imagination – yes, heart palpitations due to solitary pride – obstetricians, wet nurses,
daughters, medicines, taxis, tips and taxes to pay.
If God would only deign to list his rates.
*
God, dreading that he might succumb to the incestuous, consubstantial temptation to
reintegrate man (his work) into his breast, as Sigurd hid behind his sword in order to sleep with
the Valkyr, has put painful flesh between him and us.
*
Sentimental education.
The dance of life: the dance of bears on sheets of white hot metal. – Without touching it,
without touching the victims: their illness is contagious.
*
He likes tormenting things. (Put yourself in his place!) He would prefer unbreakable
toys. Is death his creation? For replenishing his stock he has not found better. But death does
him a disservice. This means of escaping prematurely bothers him more than us.
If we could feel what awaits us when we will have invented a way to make ourselves
immortal, we would not be so hasty; and far from looking for ways to prolong our lives would
rush towards sleep while it was still at the mercy of our eyelids, within reach of our sweet lead
bullets.
God’s main problem is dosing his poisons skilfully. It requires psychology. How much
can this soul take? How much this other? Delicate experiments. Reaching the extreme of
human resistance…to have the absolute within and to flounder among approximations.
Imprecise limits. To profit from all our possibilities – what patience! Were it not for virtue
great vices could never be satisfied. It requires perfect self-control. Sensuality sweeps him
along. He is often tempted to go further, like a good guide holds himself back at the edge of
pleasure in order to keep his client there. Don’t lose your footing, don’t cut the rope. That
would be dishonourable!
Sometimes the tension is unbearable…but God knows how to preserve good
behaviour.134 He resorts to myths, and consoles himself with a symbol (like you or I). Not the
same:
Man made paradise – but God’s paradise is hell.
Liberal enjoyment of his privileges. Torture at his discretion. His omnipotence finally
makes itself felt in the infinite.
Despite such instincts, like a pretty woman he takes care of his reputation. Reticent in
his sadism he takes care to behave delicately.
Anecdote: A poet does not recognize the right to kill. Is this a reason to allow little
117
fleas all over us? Who will hunt Toto’s? There are some souls going cheaply. We’ll find one
to burden with the necessary sins for a few bob.
Necessary for what? For our happiness – which probably doesn’t leave us in a very
good situation, as far from our sexuality as the pole of logic is from the pole of reality. Nothing
is more hypocritical than the truth.
So God rewards himself with a torturer.
Satan (see Stroheim135) willingly plays the villainous roles, the most difficult, rebellious
horses. Traitor in love with his mission. Judas selling Jesus for a kiss (he would gladly give
you 30 deniers for it), for the beauty of the gesture.
He does evil for evil’s sake, honestly, without an ulterior motive, as they used to say not
so long ago: art for art’s sake.
Free of charge and optional.
Nothing more is required. But what can be used against him? What has ever been used
against him? Art for money, bringing in so little; bad business. – Art for reputation (glory or
scandal); futile! Am I going to work for peanuts? – Art to corrupt young people? Ah! If it was
of any benefit to me…but no. So it’s just tyranny! Again no, it’s simply so illusory…change the
world? Come on! Will you ever prevent it from changing? Draw your own conclusions.
For myself, I will do as the earth does in turning for the sake of turning, while waiting
to discover a good reason.
It only remains for me to send this God that I’ve made in my image on his way. When
he seems like the most vulgar of all my friends, I will allow for attenuating circumstances. All
in all he’s more to be pitied than blamed. I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes.
*
Description
Average forehead
Average eyes
Average intelligence
Sensitivity – not very apparent
Big ears
Expressive lips, flexible tongue
Agile hands, hands of a juggler – for Olympia or pick-pocketing
DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: A life line running right round the thumb.
On this line of eternity, without beginning or end, where nevertheless whole worlds
appear and disappear, the race of seven day circuits began so long ago that the sun and the
moon (referees and runners) have lost count of how many times they’ve been round the course.
*
118
Temptation with a discount
(Wide choice of original sins)
Our everyday sister, the contemporary Eve, carves an apple in pork fat:
‘It’s just as nice at home,’ she says, – ‘and cheaper! Serpent, don’t you recognize the
smell of your crime? Has the blood of Jesus been too effective in washing the trunk of the tree
where…? History is full of new beginnings. Am I not the one – or exactly like the one – the
Lord designated for you? How about we have a good time until the Father eternal returns?…
‘Really? You refuse to make that mistake? You’re a snob! You’ve settled down,
domesticated old beast! Old worm that asks for nothing more than to stay in his skin!
‘Demon! Have a grope of my bosom…You see I’m pregnant with your doings – and you
abandon me!…’
Satan: How vulgar! And nowadays they’re all like that. Viennese junk.
God (apologizing): What can I do! Only Psyche seems to please you. However I can’t
just work for you. For fear of being incomprehensible I’ve had to go in for some
popularization.
*
Imitation of the Serpent.
He, furious: I’m going to change skin. You can put the old one on.
*
Three against one
(Comic turns)
Seated in the music hall, and in good seats I hope, you’re watching the show. Please!
(Wait a little: by dint of electrical switches, a dance of light beams, we’ll give you the theatre.)
The number 7 is passed around.
It’s Sunday in Paradise. Take care! Eve is on heat. The neighbourhood tomcats come
running, well-trained, lots of them and on form.
The Serpent uncoils a thousand tails, an apple blossom on his lips, – at a jaunty angledarts
his black well lacquered tongue, makes his irresistible eyes gleam. Waiting for the match
to begin, he shadow boxes: he slanders the assorted web-foots (far too hefty! Clumsy gait,
scruffy feathers) compares his scales to the peacock’s colours and bets on himself to win –
premeditating rape by cunning.
God, jealous, shows first the tip of his beard then suddenly makes his whole face
appear, abandoning the rest to the night. His electric halo rises up, its multi-coloured rays flash
on and off, a garish advertisement and in really bad taste, but, he believes, effective.
Projectors. New effect with revolving lights. ‘The bird with stupid eyes on its feathers
has never encountered such clear incitations to spasmodic pleasure…promise of joy: frequency
and variety. Aren’t they worth futile beauty?’ Cunning tricks! What he’s really up to is
breaking and entering. Rape by force.
119
Adam, poor clown, now on his hands, now on his feet, spins his whole body round
unadorned. His nudity is his only fortune. All his hopes lie in his rosy ugliness, his obvious
weakness and the whims of desire. If only he could cry out to Fortune at the right moment that
his wheel is coming unscrewed, pull himself up and…he relies on chance…he dreams of rape by
accident.
Eve, o mother land! has put on her best shield: she’s doing the splits. She juggles with
worlds rolled up into balls, and passes from hand to hand, without pricking her fingers: suns,
hedgehogs, moons, fruits, dead stars…
Because of the public, she turns her back on her males who are doggedly pursuing their
own stage-lights. This business is between rivals. In short, the game is being played out
without her… on honeymoon with her own flesh which a hidden demon revealed to her, her
veins blue rivers drawn into the sand of her skin, and the swelling of her heart (the most
successful of the four displays136)…
Her look wavers. Watch out for destiny’s clumsiness!
An apple falls in the orchestra pit.
*
Eternity created this triple-faced monster.
The gods’ bouquet. A trinity to tread the boards. Father, mother and son (spirit, heart
and body) soldered together by these fleshly arms, these creaking hinges…
And the French family models itself on this.
*
The genesis of Eugenie137
Seventh generations,
cross and multiply,
and the children of your children,
through hereditary rights
(that inalienable heritage)
will hand down, and will wear
until the extinction of the centuries,
– and will pass on in turn –
a lily of the valley at the shoulder.
.
God the Father: ‘ah! So that’s how it is! You don’t want to conceive? You don’t want
to have a child? But I am the most powerful: I’ll create you a daughter who will miscarry in
agony every month. You’d like to be celibate, men disgust you? Virgin, you are mad, your
daughter will retain just enough sanity to suffer and to damn her mother! Weak people are
consoled by words. Woman! Eugenie shall be your daughter’s name!
And will she bless her father? He hasn’t even dreamt of it…that wasn’t predicted in the
Holy Scriptures.
120
Maybe, after all, he doesn’t give a damn. He’s done his duty as a French man: he’s
repopulated Cayenne138.
*
He: You’ll pay me for that.
The other: I am insolvent.
*
Crowned with a mourning veil and orange blossom, life goes in for some exhibitionism.
Beatific, the animals watch, their heads on one side, wide-eyed. Curses on me, curses
on those who look at life badly: either too much or not enough. We will receive the mark of
blood that consigns us to contempt, to the axe, sometimes even to death. We will rise again
from our wounds and the baptism of our tears will harden our hearts.
But each lunar month, born again in pain, life will take care to revive our enormous
frailties, reopen our feelings of disgust, and mix its imperial dignity into our shame.
*
But we can’t do anything about it.
Heaven has its roots in hell. Blue roots the image of flames. The most dangerous
enemies of good are those who seek to suppress Evil and the evil-doer, in the literal, in the
figurative sense, who would root it out of the world.
If they succeeded (they will have a hard job) it would be a complete deforestation of the
highest values. There would no longer be the slightest contrast, everything would lose its
balance, pleasure would disappear, and even sleep. Our nights would wither, flowers cut from
dreams. Words would be everywhere but never in the right place. Without ugly things,
without pain, without opposites, I cannot remain standing.
*
It’s a monument: you have to walk around it
.
A cat is more curious than you: it puts out its paw, encounters the strange
flawless piece of glass, sets its claw on edge on it, checks the conformity of
images – and goes to sniff at the back of the mirror.
The practical man sold Goodness. Good riddance! – Now it’s the Antichrist who gets
on our nerves. It should be time to nail Evil on the cross of calvary, let him taste the agony of
his foster brother. Dispatch them back to back.
To save precious wood (tree trunks are expensive this year, carpenters too): I propose
that Satan be crucified on the other side of the True Cross.
This new god Janus might bring us the peace of the soul, the wisdom of the spectrum
whose colours tolerate each other, the black and white flag – without bloodshed.
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*
One for all.
Acknowledge the change of ownership – for I cannot perpetually utter my funeral
oration.
…It’s a question of life and death for the shadow of my steps.
*
The Heteroclite does not allow itself to be incarnate either in one, or all.
The most insignificant puppet believes that she alone is made in the image of the virgin
Mary. But I’ve puffed myself up, stretched, padded myself out, made use of my rubbish, all my
nail clippings to no avail…can I create nothing more than the world in miniature?
Multiplying himself, God subdivided himself to infinity. In vain do we seek his
likeness in the universe. Those who resemble us in their variety of hearts (believing they are
reconstituting original unity) are children playing in the dust, old men who know nothing more
about their mistress than the texture of her skin.
*
Snow ball
A rolling stone gathers no moss but covers the original form in clay where gravel sticks,
debris, so well bound together by the movement, so thoroughly incorporated, that its form is no
longer visible nor its point of origin. The dung beetle’s snow ball grows fatter, hardens,
suffices to set off an avalanche. Whoever wishes to strip his soul bare must expect to see the
dubious amalgam completely fall apart in his hands.
This surgical blade with which analysis or religion arm us against ourselves will it
encounter an ivory core – or just rubbish, rubbish, piles of rubbish all the way into its
unrecognizable centre, dust swept along with the wind?
*
Dispersal
On the day of my baptism, God gave me a box of sugared almonds. To dispose of
wholesale or retail. Free to choose consumers as I pleased.
Instructions for use.
1 – Decorate with a ribbon, a ticket – and sell.
2 – Send to the family and relations.
3 – Keep for onself to be sucked in secret.
4 – Slip them by force between your lips, end up taking them back from your mouth
with my teeth, if the sugar is growing pale, if it’s getting smaller too fast; if your pleasure isn’t
flamboyant enough, if mine isn’t sensitive enough. We would never unconditionally hand our
souls over to the one who lives near us (we know too well the use he would put them to). It’s
just a loan. We want guarantees. So we are usurers then, how loathsome. In your place I
would give everything back, demand a receipt and throw this impudent Jew into the street. I’d
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do it, you have to do it: I demand justice! But I can foresee the consequences and I know my
own interests. Whoever you are, my sugared almonds aren’t for you, they are not for any one
person alone.
5 – Let the greedy and the hungry come to me. Hold the box open. They’ll displease
me, they’ll eat disgustingly, they’ll waste them, they’ll use me. I will see on their cheek the
rose that is my rose, on their hair that I have not chosen the brown of my pralines. The verb to
love only interests me in the active.
6 – Distribute them among those whom I love. Standing, shivering, on the steps of the
church. It’s raining. When a beautiful child passes by I throw a handful of this loose change,
white and reddening and bruised. Not only if he passes by, even if I happen to imagine that one
day he will maybe pass by…the sugared almonds fall in the mud…can he debase himself to
that? – Puerile faith. Ah! How well I understand his disdain…
But I will continue nevertheless, living, against all odds, to scatter my soul. Remember
that you are dust..
*
The cracked plate
Angels with patched wings, sails: flirtations, last minute modesties…let’s use up heaven
down to the dregs, the verb down to the insult, the espadrille and the lyre down to the last
string. I’ve had enough of darning, making life last, this putrefaction, this suffering. Survival
takes too much effort. Let’s go for the fastest done: to the photographer’s, to the guillotine, to
the brothel, in my arms…
Me, alone at last. Naked haste. Don’t hesitate. Don’t change your mind. Fall.
Doesn’t matter where, when, how, only do it. Take yourself at your word.
*
The unsociable one.
At least when one is alone, alone at last, only one enemy remains to be conquered.
– The ultimate marriage of convenience!
Gold or lead, it’s too heavy. This heart must be thrown overboard. Between my mirror
and my body, shorten the leash.
– And now, onto we two.
*
Paper target
Liberated from the ring (this prison, the socket)
maybe the eyeball would start to turn… would
move around the sky, people itself with my
creatures, adorable world!
123
He’s seen enough of himself. No longer belongs to himself. He’s been sent off the
rails. The bitterness that tightly bound him to himself has moderated. No intimacy possible
between us. See him absorbed by his new life, caught in the lime of this taste for many realities
– transitory, accessory. All concentration lost in the curiosity for knowing, changing the
unknowable, unchanging world, in the desire to act (even if only on himself), in the wish to get
mixed up in everything. (He who disentangled himself so exclusively from others!) – to
become instead of being. He feels alienated. In other words: sold.
He should end it.
Hit full in the face, right in the centre of the soul, in the heart of the eye – of the only
one that counts (my right eye, since birth, is an unsilvered mirror.) Hit the most obvious: right
in the heart of the black, dilated pupil. And so as not to miss, in front of the mirror that makes
everything bigger…
It’s nearly done already. All that remains is the cocked end of the finger, the round
mouth ready to howl when the bullet leaps forward – and the aim, the prey, the fear, the circle
of darkness widening…
For the first time, the beautiful little convex images, the eye’s illuminations, the world’s
innocent miniatures, the feeble representations of space, reflections, have ceased to be. What I
see inside: this abominable bleeding hole, comes from time, from myself, from within.
A hand falls back down, limp.
The intensity, the shame, could be enough: if he’s not dead he’s scarcely better off. The
disdained right eye, furious, squirts its invisible ink – and the left eye, renouncing itself, dignity,
miracles, finally dares to look at itself.
1928
I want to change skin: tear the old one from me.
GET RID OF GOD I REMAIN
Don’t go leaning over others,
guard yourself against the call of the abyss…
124
I might squash someone while falling.
I have spent thirty-three years of my life wishing passionately, blindly, that things
would be other than they are. I’ve acquired hardly any conventional values. I don’t know what
bill falls due today. But I can feel it. My good side and my bad side, whatever they are, have
to be expressed, with the minimum loss…
Live and grow in me, he she – or simply it – that allows me, still young, to understand
that I should only, because I can only, connect with, change, myself.
If the universe is in the mood for metamorphosis, that can only concern each for
himself. No time to lose in bringing about our own salvation. It behoves the immutable alone
to worry about others. The immutable, that is to say a fossilized soul, a cadaver.
If he wasted any time at all, for just one second in his short career, Jesus damned
himself…because he was living.
But who can say if Christ didn’t get himself crucified to expiate his own mistakes, on
his own account, only to acquit his own conscience.
*
The n….th day God regretted having created Heaven and Earth.
He wanted to destroy his work. But it had fallen into the public domain.
So he descended in himself, divided himself into three to diminish his responsibility,
invented the Serpent – and changed pseudonyms.
*
The un-nameable
Consciously, unconsciously, whether we squander ourselves, or save ourselves for
future generations, if we go to sleep surrounded by precautions, by all possible contempt, if we
use ourselves, sperm and blood, sweat and tears, down to the dregs, if we obey ourselves, if we
revolt against ourselves or admire ourselves, if we lead ourselves on a leash like a queen, if we
feed ourselves like a dog, if we are made of straw or wooden beams, if we see ourselves as
beautiful and good, unique or legion, at our pleasure, at our pain, whether we feel abstract or
concrete, each treats himself, should and can only treat himself according to his merit.
Make myself another vocabulary, brighten the silvering on the mirror, wink, swindle
myself, improve my skeleton with a fluke muscle, correct my faults and copy my actions,
divide myself to rule myself, multiply myself so I can make my mark, in short: make a mockery
of ourselves – that can’t change anything. Anyway, stroke me up the wrong way like yesterday
and always – no, that doesn’t change anything.
*
P.S. – a new position for loving myself, for hating myself, a new contact was finally put
within reach, at my mercy: An image of the world formed from truths that stick out a mile, a
psychology, a morality, painted in trompe l’ame139 A religion as large as life in pasteboard,
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grapes your pigeon would shatter its beak on…or if you deserve better: a more real order of
things (or at least more plausible) than the chaos our senses bear false witness to.
But why hasten towards eternal conclusions? It behoves death, not sleep (another
trompe-l’oeil), to conclude. Life’s role is to leave me uncompleted, allow me only freeze
frames.
Start again. Connections, repairs, reiterations, incoherence, so what! Provided that
something else continually comes along. Work essentially obscene and destined to pass
through the hands of all viable new-borns – however protected or nauseated they are in the
crib.
*
[Note to designer – look at original for layout of this
passage which cannot be reproduced in word-perfect]
MOI – The one: What a life! It’s not mine.
– The other: the intonation is correct. A little more conviction and I’d come to
your aid.
OE – In vain do I try to put my body back where it was (my body with its
dependencies), to see myself in the third person. The ‘I’ in me is like the E taken into the O.
*
Get out of the O…
A Greek temple far away smokes through its seven columns of factory chimneys –
without body, without visible building, sweating the green lawn…The Christian era in ruins is
going back to join the centuries where the years are counted backwards.
Bodies and souls, how skeletons resemble each other! It’s the fat, the excess, that
distinguishes individuals it seems to me, that makes us strut about.
Seven? To count identical objects you have to touch the space. I wouldn’t read my
rosary of eyes. A letter constantly repeated is a dead letter.
Let’s talk about repetitions! – J.H. told me yesterday that I was a squirrel: I nibble a
nut, greedy, relaxed. Someone who makes me feel awkward turns up unexpectedly and I nip
off. – It’s true. Don’t push me: you would find out for yourself.
I stop, foot raised to flee. Flee in a circle. What else can I do in this cage where the
squirrel circles furiously. Furiously…and yet he circles. He and she. Moon, cage. – This
prophet of the Unknown, of the n…nth true god, has he scientifically discovered the tangent?
Can we find at the bottom of ourselves the virtue to escape this horrible cycle? I believe, but
in the conditional: I would like to believe.
And while I claim to be seeking to emancipate myself from the machine-like circle of
the worlds, thoughts made in series, word games and crazy images…the root of the third statue
turns slightly blue to rejoin the vein in my temple for evermore.
*
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1. Mac Orlan was a great admirer of Marcel Schwob, the great French symbolist writer of
‘Imaginary Lives’ and other influential texts, who was Claude Cahun (nee Lucie Renee
Schwob)’s uncle.
2. A word play: Cahun uses ‘mettre en plein dans le vide’ reminiscent of the expression
‘mettre en plein dans le mille’ – mille being the value of the centre of the target, the bull’s
eye.
3. A reference to Cahun’s Jewish roots – even though her mother was not Jewish her father
was. Cahun had a very bad relationship with her mother, nee Victorine Mary Antoinette
Courbebaisse, who spent much of her life in a lunatic asylum. The young Claude was mostly
brought up by her grandmother, Mathilde Cahun, who was Jewish and whose name she took.
4. Claude Cahun was primarily a lesbian and had a passionate and devoted life-long
relationship with a childhood friend, and later step sister, Suzanne Malherbe (aka Marcel
Moore) that started in 1909 when Cahun was fifteen. However, in 1917 she developed what
can only be described as a ‘crush’ on a young man, five years her junior, called Bob. Bob
I’ll do whatever is required for this and I’ll finish well…
One fine day he is before me. And me: ‘When will he come?’ – ‘It’s him!’ It’s not
him. I don’t want to believe it. He wouldn’t be friends with these vulgar people. He
wouldn’t have this voice, these gestures, these facial expressions. Nor that form, nor that
colour. He wouldn’t bother being so banal. This ease is not at all what I would expect from
me, nor from him. The all-purpose sentence: ‘You’ve met me before’, he said it. I say any
old thing in reply, thinking with all my might: ‘Do you often have success with that?’
All the same. As soon as he has left I busy myself correcting the feeble image I had
made for myself before I met him. I hadn’t been able to see such eyes for him.
At the next encounter, no longer the slightest effort to adapt. I would almost surprise
myself by concluding: he is exactly as I had imagined.
*
Cutting one’s losses
As soon as I get to know them, every one ferocious beasts, they speak out against my
most precious treasure. Against the unique un-nameable. Against my indefinable reason for
being. Nonetheless I allow them the advantage. But their thirst for prey cannot be appeased;
but their hunger for my flesh is insatiable. They don’t do this with the least nastiness. It’s just
too strong for me.
I feel them come at speed. A gesture, a word, a nothing – mostly indirect – reveals me
to them. They gorge themselves on my tears. They don’t leave me with even the wherewithal
to suffer. I only have the heart to weep when I have fled from them.
Dear Strangers, keep your distance: I have only you in the world.
‘And me? What about me?…’ someone shouts: myself.
My beautiful future, this unhoped for reinforcement comes to me. Present already
past, you who evade me, one moment more respite…
Provided that it’s not too late.
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was a farm hand and fisherman on Jersey – where the family spent their summer holidays.
5. A pun. Cahun used the phrase ‘sortir…de ses gonds’ which is also a colloquialism
meaning to get into a fury.
6. Pyrrhus, a legendary figure described by Plutarch, was said to have one continuous bone
where his upper teeth should have been.
7. Giant King of Thrace, renowned in Greek mythology for his four magnificent, wild,
uncontrollable, and, most significantly, man-eating mares.
8. Vae victis – a Latin phrase meaning ‘woe to the conquered’.
9. Cahun often refers to herself as Salome. John the Baptist is invariably the man desired by
women as in Oscar Wilde’s version of the Biblical tale in his play ‘Salome’.
10. ‘Arrivez les troisiemes classses’. Using the verb ‘arriver’ turns this into a pun on the
class system – ‘arriviste’ is a social climber.
11. Possibly a reference to Shakespeare: ‘He ploughed her and she cropped,’ is Agrippa’s
crude description of Julius Caesar’s liaison with Cleopatra, Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 2,
scene 2, line 228.
12. A word play – herbes folles means rank weeds but folle is also the feminine form of fou
meaning mad.
13. A pun on an expression a bouche que veux-tu which demotes kissing with great abandon.
14. The arrow refers to both Cupid’s arrow of Love and is a common symbol for Apollo – he
being, among other things, God of poetry.
15. Word play on ‘aimant’ meaning loving as an adjective and magnet as a noun. Also,
probably, ‘amant’, lover.
12. Word play: camarde as an adjective means pug-nosed but used as a noun, la camarde
means death.
17. A reference to her own and her father’s profiles. Cahun chose to align herself genetically
with her father – who was Jewish – rather then her mother with whom she had a very difficult
relationship.
18. This passage had already been published in Carnaval en Chambre in a review La Ligne
de Coeur, Nantes 1926. The family was very much involved in Carnival at Nantes where her
father was part of the organising committee. Hence Claude Cahun’s abiding interest in
masks, disguises etc.
19. The reference is to the seven circles of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy
128
21. A small port in Brittany where the Schwob family used to spend their holidays like many
people from Nantes. Described at length in Vues and Visions.
22. Cahun was 33 at the time of writing – she is mixing herself up with the murdered child
and the whole saga depicts her nightmarish relationship with her mother.
23. A reference to a story Cahun was told while a child by her grandmother which haunted
her throughout her life. In the story, a slave boy conceals a fox under his tunic and the fox
devours him. The story is also referred to in ‘Confessions to the Mirror’ cf. Claude Cahun,
Ecrits edited by Francois Leperlier, P.618, publ. Jean Michel Place, Paris.
24. A reference to a poem by Verlaine – Impression fausse
25. Another play on words: psyche means swing mirror in addition to Psyche (mythological)
and psyche (psychological).
26. i.e. Mosaic – a notion that permeates the whole of Aveux non Avenus.
27. An allusion to the scandalous novel Le Jardin des Supplices, [Torture Garden] 1899 by
Octave Mirbeau, a friend of Marcel Schwob. The whole passage reflects the aesthetic
decadence that characterised this school of writing.
28. Her first allusion to Plato’s Banquet – by Aristophanes. This is the origin of the beast
with two backs; in Plato’s discourse he says that initially both sexes (sometimes in a
homosexual conjunction) were in one body, they were separated and thereafter sought each
other through life.
29. Allusion to the celebrated les deux infinis passage in les Pensees de Pascal.
30. i.e the torment of having what you desire within reach but not being able to grasp it.
31. Pris dans les glaces: as play on the double meaning of glaces – mirrors and ice fields.
When talking of a boat, pris dans les glaces means ice-bound.
32. A mixture of allusions to Greek myths especially those concerning Penelope and
Arachne.
33. A Greek writer much liked by Marcel Schwob
34. Praxitele was a classical sculptor, much admired by Michel Angelo, he made his Venus
around 360 BC.
35. Cahun seems to be referring to Victor Hugo’s poem, le Feu du Ciel which is prefaced by
a quote from Genesis, ‘And the Lord caused a rain of sulphur and fire to fall upon Sodom and
Gomorrah’.
36. Semence philosophale – a play on pierre philosophale – the philosophers’ stone sought by
alchemists.
129
37. Aurige – the name given to the (male) drivers of two-wheeled warrior chariots. Known
for their beauty and youth.
38. Jersey – she had already visited the island several times at the time of writing.
39. An often repeated quote by Destouches (Philippe Nericault) 1680 – 1754 La critique est
aisee, et l’art est difficile..
40. A wind rose was a compass face designed to chart the direction of winds.
41. This is part of the first line of the fifth verse of Baudelaire’s poem Moesta et Errabunda,
‘Mais le vert paradis des amours enfantines’.
42. Cahun uses the word peine which also means punishment
43. This is a more cynical version of the encounter Charles Baudelaire describes in Le Joujou
du Pauvre in Le Spleen de Paris.
44. The Ferryman’s dog is Cerberus who guarded the entrance to hell on the other side of the
river Styx. He was given cakes to placate him.
45. Prospective priests of the Earth-goddess Cybele castrated themselves using special
ornamented clamps. Post-castration they adorned themselves with feminine attire: jewellery,
colourful robes and turbans or tiaras over female hair styles.
46. Champs de concentration: It is possible that Cahun intended a pun on camps de
concentration (concentration camps) which, the reader is reminded, were first instigated by
Lord Kitchener during the South African war of 1899-1902. At the beginning of Chapter 7
there is another apparent allusion when Cahun talks of ‘gare de concenttration’. In 1927,
when these lines were written, however, nobody could have known of the coming Nazi
deportations to camps. Nevertheless these references remain curious at the least.
47. A reference to Kant
48. Lacs can also mean a kind of trap tu m’as pris dans tes lacs, Ether. Ether could be the
sky or the drug.
49. Ataraxia, Greek word meaning the absence of confusion or disturbance.
50. As in alma mater – meaning gentle, nurturing etc.
51. Previously published in February 1926 edition of La Mercure de France, cf.
Ephemerides in Claude Cahun, Ecrits edited by Francois Leperlier, P.465, publ. Jean Michel
Place, Paris.
52. Cahun has reversed the old saying lâcher la proie pour l’ombre (let go the prey for a
shadow, meaning give up a real advantage for an illusory promise).
53. Pun: faire peau neuve also means ‘turn over a new leaf’.
130
54. The first allusion to surrealist games.
55. Cahun was related to Oscar Wilde whose literary influence is evident in this dramatized
section.
56. R.P denotes reverend father – B might be Bob.
57. Ne pas manger de ce pain-la is a saying by which someone refuses to do something,
especially something which will tend to corrupt. The pun – bread/host – is obvious and
irreverant.
58. Cahun is probably creating a backward character describing ‘new-fangled’ x-rays.
59. Reference to proverb on n’est jamais si bien servi que par soi-meme – one is never so well
served as by oneself.
60. S’ouvre a deux battants: the image comes from the phrase ouvrir les portes a deux
battants meaning to fling the gates wide open
61. Word play – presumption of innnocence
62. Wordplay on etre en cas de legitime defence
63. A play on words since syncope can also mean fainting fit.
64. For once, an authentic proverb!
65. This is a particularly fine example of Cahun’s characteristic word-play: ‘les abeilles ont
des fleurets mouchetes’ – les abeilles – bees; fleurets – swords but this sounds like fleurs,
meaning flowers – mouchetes – a kind of protective stopper over the tip of a sword but sounds
like mouches – flies. Furthermore all these words rhyme – abeilles, fleurets, mouchetes.
66. Word play on trompe la mort – cheating death
67. The following passage was published earlier as separate piece of writing but without this
title, cf. Ephemerides in Claude Cahun, Ecrits edited by Francois Leperlier, P.465, publ. Jean
Michel Place, Paris.
68. A reference to the biblical parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20) in which
those who arrived at the eleventh hour were paid the same as those who had toiled since
dawn.
69. As in English, sublimate has two main meanings – one the chemical process by which
solids are transformed into gas without passing through a liquid stage. The other is the
Freudian sense whereby a primitive impulse [such as sexual urges] is unconsciously
transformed into something ‘higher’ or more socially acceptable.
70. A well known French saying has it that, ‘la plus belle fille du monde ne peut offrir que ce
qu’elle a’ – even the most beautiful girl in the world can only give what she has (i.e. her
body).
131
71. The phrase she uses is double detente (a gun that is fired twice in quick succession) a pun
on double entente – double meaning.
72. Refers to a Greek anecdote – Diogenes said these word to Alexander the Great who had
come to visit him. Because the Emperor was so big he cast a huge shadow over Diogenes.
73. Insects without wings. Victory is traditionally shown with wings.
74. Daphnis and Chloe, according to myth, did not know how to make love.
75. Biographical note: Cahun’s mother converted from Catholism to Protestantism.
76. This is the word used by Ancient Greeks to describe the (male) recipient of anal
intercourse.
77. The word Cahun uses is entourage which also has the same sense (of companions) as in
English.
78. Cahun often turns biblical phrases upside down – in this case ‘knock and it shall be
opened unto you’.
79. In children’s tales the wolf would dip his paws in flour to disguise himself as a sheep.
Montrer patte blanche – show a white paw – became an expression denoting someone who
covered their malevolent true identity with an appearance of innocence (like a wolf in sheep’s
clothing).
80. Humour derived from fact that normally these phrases would refer to cats rather than
angels.
81. Word play on usual phrase autres temps autres moeurs – other times other moral values.
82. Apart from the obvious sexual connotations this passage also refers to Cahun’s anorexia
where food would have been viewed as a ‘perversion’ forced on her by adults.
83. A reference to Dr Faustus
84. The revolving table is a means of divination, communicating with the spirits of the dead.
85. This is a quote from Comme Il Fait Beau by Breton, Desnos and Peret, and is interesting
since it suggest Cahun may have been well acquainted with their work.
86. A children’s game in which the participants have to determine if a chosen object can fly
or not. This game also appealed to the imaginations of the Dadaists. There is a long section
involving improbable flying objects in the play Comme Il Fait Beau by Breton et al.
87. Grammatical word play as tenu [need acute on e] also means clipped [consonants].
88. A historical allusion: In the previous sentence Cahun uses the word allemand (translated
as German), here she uses germain in use until the late middle ages when the borders of la
Germanie changed. There is also a play on words, germain meaning first cousin.
132
83. Pun on right angle – ongle droit sounds like angle droit – but also they are leaning on their
right nails as they hold their pens, like children in the classroom – an image that pervades this
whole passage with comic results.
90. This is one of several allusions to surrealist games – in this case the exquisite corpse.
91. A children’s song in which lots are drawn on an imaginary boat lost at sea to see who the
others should eat first. Like the rest of the passage there are also political allusions to the
current political situation in Europe which, as the daughter of a journalist, she was fully
conversant with.
92. Cahun sees herself as Salome. Cf her article on Wilde’s play of the same name in
Claude Cahun, Ecrits edited by Francois Leperlier, P.451, publ. Jean Michel Place, Paris.
93. The suggestion is that she has castrated her father; the same implication is present in the
description of cutting off curlews’ beaks since she had inherited her father’s fine, curved
nose.
94. From Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme in which M. Jourdain discovers he is
speaking prose without knowing it – and is very pleased with himself!
95. A pun on ‘ivory tower’.
96. The following passage is a call not to war, but against it. An anti-war statement.
97. Cahun is referring to her own collaborations with Marcel Moore [Suzanne Malherbe] her
step sister, lover, lifelong companion and collaborator in photographic works. The works are
usually credited to Cahun although Moore contributed as much, if not more, to the endeavour.
98. opotherapy, a medical practise current at the time involving the administration of the
homologous organs derived from healthy animals.
99. The word Cahun uses here, glace, can mean both ice and mirror. Both have resonances
with the rest of the passage. Impossible to translate entirely satisfactorily.
100. The Hebrew name given to John the Baptist and the name given to him in Wilde’s
Salome
101. Plus de peur que de mal – a phrase used when someone has an accident, escaped a
danger, it could have been terrible but in the end we were afraid for no reason
102. An old fairground game where the aim was to ‘kill’ all the figures.
103. Reductio ad absurdum – reduction to the absurd; philosophical argument often used by
Aristotle, also known as an apagogic argument
104. Possibly Sodom and Gomorrah
105. A pun on incarne meaning ingrown but also incarnate
133
106. Triple sec is a strong, clear orange-flavoured liqueur
107. The choke pear was an iron torture instrument commonly used in the Spanish
Inquisition. Shaped like a pear it was inserted in the victim’s mouth, anus or vagina
(especially for women accused of being witches) where it was expanded by turning a key.
Some also had spikes which emerged as the key was turned, ensuring it could not be
removed.
108. A pun on eau de vie – strong alchohol.
109. A wordplay in French – confirme – proves; l’infirme – weakens it.
110. Biblical reference to separating the wheat from the chaff.
111. A reference to Sisyphus, the great sinner of Greek mythology, who was condemned to
eternally roll a rock uphill only for it to hurtle back down again.
112. Holocaust did not have the immense historical significance it has now, of course. It
meant a sacrifice by fire in which the victim is totally consumed. However, it is very curious
that Cahun (with her insistence on her own Jewishness) makes several references in this text
to words and terms that have this resonance as if she somehow intuits the future. I am
thinking of ‘champs de concentration’, ‘gare de concentration’ etc.
113. Charlot – affectionate, popular name for Charlie Chaplin and also word for clown.
114. An oubliette was found in most castles – an underground prison where people were
literally forgotten and left to die.
115. Hecatomb was an ancient Greek ritualistic slaughter of 100 cattle.
116. Reference to a children’s game – catch me if you can
117.
Medical term for swallowing.
118. A play on words: teinte plate means uniform colour and is also a tinted glass plate next
to the mirror in a rudimentary telescope.
119. Cf Ephemerides in Claude Cahun, Ecrits edited by Francois Leperlier, P.461, publ. Jean
Michel Place, Paris
120. Latin, literally ‘from the egg’, used to denote starting (a chronology for example) at the
earliest possible point.
121. To work for the King of Prussia is a French idiom meaning working for nothing, for
peanuts.
122. In Greek mythology, Marsyas was a satyr who challenged Apollo to a contest of music
to be judged by the Muses. The deal was, that the winner could treat the defeated party any
134
way he wanted. Marsyas lost and was flayed alive in a cave. His blood turned into the river
Marsyas
123. Wordplay – ecorche can also mean anatomical model.
124. Reference to the Latin saying panem et circenses – [the people need] bread and spectacle
125. A children’s game in which the small bones from a sheep are tossed up and caught on
the back of the hand
126. She means death, la mort.
127. A complicated pun – the tortoise was also the translation for testudo, a wheeled shelter
used by Roman soldiers under attack from above.
128. Marguerite – seduced by Faust; Titine the heroine of a popular song.
129. Faisande can also mean decadent
130. Aimant – magnet – as above.
131. Reference to popular saying: courir deux lievres a la fois (literally chasing two hares at
once) meaning to try to do two things at once.
132. Casting out the nines is an archaic mathematical method for checking additions.
133. Le verbe most commonly means the verb but in a more literary/biblical context means
‘word’.
134. A pun on the word preservatif which can also mean condom. Preservatifs de la bonne
conduite (of good behaviour).
135. Eric von Stroheim (1885 – 1957) film actor, later director. He played villainous roles
and was dubbed by the Hollywood studios in the 1920s ‘the man you love to hate.’ In 1920
he starred in ‘The Devil’s Passkey’ and in 1923 ‘Souls for Sale’ both titles having resonance
with this poem-essay.
136. The word she uses is la roue which usually means wheel but can also mean, as in this
case, the circular display of the peacock’s tail feathers.
137. Eugenie in Greek mean ‘well born’ and is the root of the science Eugenics which the
passage treats.
138. An oblique reference to the forced labour camp on Devil’s Island in the French colony of
Guyana whose capital is Cayenne.
139. An pun on trompe l’oeil; l’ame meaning soul

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